Chechen president escapes bomb

A fresh wave of separatist violence hit Chechnya when a landmine blasted a convoy carrying its interim leader and 18 elite security forces were killed in clashes.

    Sergei Abramov was appointed president last May

    News reports said a bodyguard was killed when a mine

    struck a motorcade carrying the pro-Moscow acting president,

    Sergei Abramov, through the devastated regional capital, Grozny.

    Abramov, who took over after President Ahmad Kadyrov was

    killed by a bomb on 9 May, was travelling at high speed in an

    armoured car and escaped injury.

    His convoy was returning from an inspection of construction sites of buildings shattered in Russia's second post-Soviet attempt to crush separatism, launched in 1999.

    Interfax said two other

    members of Abramov's staff were hurt.

    "I am alive. Everything is all right," Abramov told First

    Channel television about 90 minutes after the blast.

    A former prime minister of Chechnya, 32-year-old Abramov was thrust

    into the top job when Kadyrov was killed in a bomb attack during

    public celebrations.

    Elections for a new president are to be

    held on 29 August, but Abramov is not in the running.

    Deadly battle

    Agencies also quoted local officials as saying Chechnya's

    elite security force lost 18 fighters in their heaviest fighting

    in a year with rebels in a village south of Grozny.

    The upsurge of violence showed that although Chechen

    guerrillas cannot mount prolonged large-scale operations

    against Russian forces, they can still carry out effective

    hit-and-run attacks on specific targets.

    Eighteen elite soldiers were killed
    in clashes with rebels

    In reports on the overnight fighting at Avtury about 35km 

    south of Grozny, Kadyrov's son, Ramzan, said 18

    members of the force he heads had been killed.

    "The battle lasted from 11pm on Monday until Tuesday

    morning," Kadyrov said.

    "We suffered the heaviest losses among Chechen security forces in a single operation in a year," Itar-Tass news agency quoted Kadyrov as saying.

    A Chechen Interior Ministry spokesman

    confirmed the clash, but said only that 24 rebels had been

    killed. NTV television said six people had died altogether.

    Hit and run

    It is nearly five years since Russian troops poured back into

    Chechnya for the second time to end effective independence won

    in a 1994-96 war with Moscow.

    Ahmad Kadyrov was killed in a
    bomb attack

    Russian troops and pro-Moscow Chechen forces suffer

    weekly casualties in hit-and-run attacks and raids on bases of

    splintered guerrilla groups.

    Ahmad Kadyrov ruled Chechnya with a firm hand, building a

    power base by negotiating the surrender of some rebels.

    The Kremlin has signalled it is backing Alu Alkhanov,

    the region's Interior Minister to succeed him after the August

    election.

    Troops under his command vie for control of Chechnya

    with Ramzan Kadyrov's security forces.

    200-year struggle

    With recent violence hitting Russian-supported Chechens and Russian military, the 200-year struggle seems to have no end in sight.

    Located in the mountainous region in the Caucasus range and inhabited by a mainly Muslim population with a fiercely independent spirit, Chechnya has seen anti-Russian fighting since the late 1700s. 

    During the second world war, Soviet leader Josef Stalin distrusted the Chechens and deported them en masse to Central Asia in 1944.

    They were allowed to return in 1957 under premier Nikita Khrushchev.

    After Dzhokhar Dudayev declared independence at the end of Soviet rule, President Boris Yeltsin sent in troops in December 1994 and Russia became mired in war. 

    Stiff rebel resistance led to a truce being signed and Moscow withdrew its forces but returned shortly before Vladimir Putin became Russia's president in 1999.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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