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Chechen rebel leader killed, reports say

Salman Raduyev

Fierce fighting erupts

March 6, 1996
Web posted at: 8:50 a.m. EST (1350 GMT)

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Chechen rebel leader Salman Raduyev died overnight after being shot in the head Sunday, the Interfax news agency reported Wednesday.

As news of his death spread, fierce fighting erupted in the Chechen capital of Grozny.

Raduyev, 28, died in a hospital in Urus-Martan, a town southwest of Grozny, of injuries received when he was shot and wounded in the head in an attack, Interfax quoted Chechen interior ministry officials as saying.

The report could not be confirmed independently.

Raduyev, a bearded fanatical Chechen commander, led a group of rebels on a hostage-taking raid in southern Russia in January. Last month, he vowed to fight Russian forces for 10 more years.

Reports vary as to who was involved in Sunday's attack in which Raduyev suffered his fatal injuries. Some reports described it as an ambush carried out by rival Chechen guerrillas. Interfax said another field commander, Umar Khaskhanov, was killed in the same fighting.

Itar-Tass news agency, however, said the commander of Russian forces in Chechnya had heard Raduyev died from wounds inflicted by Russian troops in the Chechen village of Sernovodsk.

Raduyev's father was reportedly killed last week in circumstances which are not clear.

Rebels retaliate

Chechnya/Grozny map

Chechen rebels in Grozny retaliated Wednesday by attacking Russian military posts as word spread that their leader was dead. The sound of machine guns and mortar fire echoed across city streets in what witnesses called the heaviest fighting in 13 months.

By noon, 10 people, including a number of civilians, had been killed, an official of the Russian-backed Chechen government said.

Tass reported that rebels had taken control of parts of the city.

A journalist in Grozny said much of the fighting was concentrated in the town's center near where the presidential palace used to stand. Russian troops dynamited the palace last month.

The journalist said one Russian armored vehicle was hit by a rebel shell on a bridge near the former palace. The soldiers then jumped out and ran. He said he saw two other Russian armored vehicles gutted by shells.

"I have not seen such fighting since Grozny was taken," he said. Russian troops seized the city in February 1995.

The journalist said witnesses reported there was a rebel checkpoint less than a mile from the main Russian military headquarters in Grozny. Also he said a Russian troop carrier opened fire on a group of civilians in the center of town earlier in the day. The city's center is now "absolutely empty."

The heavy fighting comes on the eve of a session by Russian President Boris Yeltsin's Security Council. On Thursday, the council is to meet in Moscow to discuss a peace plan for Chechnya.

Raduyev on Russia's most-wanted list

Salman Raduyev

Raduyev became one of Russia's most wanted men after a dramatic hostage-seizing raid in southern Russia in January.

His "Lone Wolf" guerrilla group seized several hundred hostages in the Dagestan town of Kizlyar on January 9, saying they were ready to die to win a Russian withdrawal from Chechnya.

They slipped away from Kizlyar with about 200 hostages before Russian troops encircled them in Pervomaiskaya, a village near the Chechen border.

Russian troops pounded the small village with heavy firepower for nearly a week. However, many of the rebels, including Raduyev, escaped to Chechnya unscathed.

Afterward, Raduyev told journalists Chechnya would never submit to Russian authority.

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Reuters contributed to this report.

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