Twenty killed in Chechnya

Twenty people including a senior Russian commander have died in two days of fighting in Chechnya, the Russian military said on Saturday.


    Ambushed: Russian troops are
    facing fresh attacks in Chechnya

    Fourteen Chechen fighters, four Russian soldiers and two civilians died in the battle, which began on Friday.


    The  battle started when fighters ambushed a Russian military convoy near the town of Argun, east of the Chechen capital Grozny. The gunbattle continued until Saturday evening, the Russian military said.


    Colonel Aoud Yusupov, a deputy commander of Russia's federal armed forces in Chechnya and the senior officer in the Argun region was among those killed, Argun's mayor Kerim Guchigov said.


    He said Yusupov's driver and a bodyguard had also died but did not give details of the other Russian soldier. Two civilian passers-by died in crossfire.


    Fourteen fighters died and a dozen others fled into the centre of Argun where they were surrounded by Russian troops, a military spokesman said.


    Fresh wave


    The ambush coincided with a decision by the Russian parliament to approve an amnesty for Chechen fighters, who have stepped up attacks and suicide bombings against Russian forces.


    The wave of fresh attacks is reportedly linked to attempts by Moscow to start setting up new political institutions in Chechnya.


    The amnesty also protects Russian soldiers who are accused of committing numerous violations against civilians in Chechnya, a fact that has outraged human rights groups.


    The latest war between separatist fighters and federal troops in Chechnya broke out in October 1999. 


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