The Russian military was quoted on Saturday by the Daily Star as saying that its forces had wiped out what it called a band of “mercenaries” fighting on the side of Chechen militants.
The military was also quoted as saying that artillery had blasted groups of Chechen militants in the key Argun and Vedeno gorges, two deep mountain passes in southern Chechnya.
A spokesman of the Russian military told “RTR” state television that the band of mercenary fighters had been intercepted as they tried to cross the border from Chechnya into neighboring ex-Soviet Georgia, the Lebanese paper added, quoting him as saying “during the clash, 21 fighters were killed." He said the group's leader Khattab, who was close to well-known Chechen commander, was wounded.
Khattab is on Russia's most-wanted list along with Chechen militant leader Shamil Basayev, as he is the best known of the non-Chechens fighting in the region.
Russian forces have been ambushed several times in recent months.
Russian news agencies reported that Moscow's forces had been in action overnight, with artillery blasting rebel positions in the gorges.
The guns hit two areas where militants were dug in and forced three groups to disperse, the agencies said – Albawaba.com
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