Monday, February 21, 2005

Russia Today; Europe Tomorrow; America...?

Russian Forces Kill Besieged Caucasus Rebels

Sun Feb 20, 8:09 AM ET
By Oliver Bullough

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian troops on Sunday used heavy weaponry and gas to kill three rebels holed up in a house near Chechnya, local media reported. The rebels were besieged in an apartment block for more than a day, before dozens of Special Forces troops with armored vehicles subdued them, leaving their apartment in flames. The firefight in the town of Nalchik, some 75 miles from Chechnya where rebels have fought Russian rule for a decade, was a graphic example of the extent that Muslim radicalism has spread through the North Caucasus. Police said the raid was the culmination of a three-day operation to break militant Islamic groups who have intensified attacks on Russian forces in the region of Kabardino-Balkariya over the last year. "Today we ended a well-organized special operation to destroy several terrorist groups that have prepared terrorist acts on Russian territory," said Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelev in televised comments. RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying the attacking troops had pumped in tear gas before the storm. The battle, the latest in a series of firefights outside Chechnya itself in recent months, started in the early morning when the rebels refused to surrender after being surrounded on Saturday morning. It was not clear who the rebels were, but Yedelev said Russian troops had detained five men before attacking the house. Rebel Web site reported that they did not belong to an Islamist group called 'Yarmuk' which was the target of a similar attack from Russian forces in Nalchik last month, but referred to them as Muslim fighters. Islamic militancy has increasingly spread from Chechnya to the nearby regions of Ingushetia, Dagestan, North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkariya -- where Nalchik is the capital -- since Russia sent troops back into Chechnya in 1999.
Shamil Basayev
Aslan Maskhadov
"They all belonged to a reactionary branch of Islam ... and were in the general structure of bandit groups headed by (Aslan) Maskhadov and (Shamil) Basayev," said Yedelev, referring to the Chechen rebel leaders blamed by Russia for militant attacks throughout the country. Maskhadov and Basayev say they are currently observing a cease-fire, and rebel Web sites carried no reports linking them to the killed militants.


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