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World - Europe

Four Russia paratroopers reported killed in Dagestan

VIDEO
CNN's Mike Hanna reports on Russia's threats to strike rebel bases in Chechnya (August 13, 1999)
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iconMESSAGE BOARD:
Russia's future

Putin: Assault to force rebels out

August 14, 1999
Web posted at: 6:07 a.m. EDT (1007 GMT)

MOSCOW -- Four paratroopers were killed and 13 wounded in a seven-hour clash with Islamic rebels early on Saturday in Russia's troubled southern region of Dagestan, an Interior Minstry spokesman said.

The spokesman, Dagestan-based Yevgeny Ryabtsev, told Ekho Moskvy radio the rebels also suffered heavy losses. He gave no further details apart from the fact that the fighting took place on high ground near the village of Rakhata.

Russia's military has put its casualties at 10 killed and 27 wounded in two days of operations against the rebels, who infiltrated from the neighbouring breakaway region of Chechnya earlier this month and seized several villages in Dagestan.

Russian military commanders have said they need up to two weeks to drive out the rebels, who want to establish an Islamic state in the predominantly Muslin region on the Caspian Sea.

The have said at least 200 rebels were killed in fighting and some of the seized villages had been retaken.

Ryabtsev said the rebels had been largely driven out of Dagestan's Tsumadin district, adding that the troops were chasing small groups of fighters who had dispersed in the mountains to launch hit-and-run attacks on Russian forces.

He said troops in Botlikh district were confronting rebels without engaging in major attacks. Ryabtsev said aircraft carried out 19 attacks on rebel positions on Friday.

The rebels deny Russian military success and say their losses do not exceed five people.

Putin: Assault to force rebels out

Basayev
Chechen rebel commander Shamil Basayev, right, has joined the rebels fighting in Dagestan  

Acting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Friday a full-scale assault was under way to force rebels out of Russia's strife-torn southern region of Dagestan.

Chechen-led rebels seized several towns in mountainous territory in Dagestan seven days ago and it was not clear whether Putin was referring to a new phase in Russia's military campaign against them or to operations in progress.

"It (the assault) has begun," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. Putin said Russia would pressure the rebels everywhere, even in Chechnya if needed, Interfax added.

The conflict is the worst security crisis for Russia since the disastrous 1994-96 Chechen war and leaders from President Boris Yeltsin downwards have said it would be resolved quickly.

"Chechnya is a Russian territory and wherever the fighters are, strikes will be carried out against them," Putin was quoted as saying by Interfax.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
Russia Today
ITAR-TASS Home Page
CaspianNet: Dagestan Republic
Chechen Republic Online
NUPI Center for Russian Studies
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