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Wednesday October 25, 2000

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13 Russian soldiers die in Chechnya

By The Associated Press

NAZRAN, Russia - Rebels staged dozens of attacks in Chechnya, killing 13 Russian soldiers and wounding 24, an official said yesterday.

Eight Russian soldiers were killed and 12 were wounded when vehicles they were riding in struck mines, the official, a member of Moscow's pro-Chechnya administration, said.

Five other Russian soldiers died and 12 were wounded in a total of 33 rebel attacks on checkpoints and positions over the past 24 hours, the official said.

In three separate attacks using mines - one in the Chechen capital Grozny and two in smaller towns - rebels lay in wait until the military vehicles were incapacitated by the blasts, then opened fire on survivors, the official said.

Russian sappers discovered and defused at least five other mines in Chechnya, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Russian military often reports more casualties from explosives than from skirmishes with the rebels in daily accounts of the fighting, which has bogged down since a second Russian military operation in Chechnya began last fall.

Security agents rescued a hostage near Vedeno in the southern mountains, freeing Said Abusuyev, the son of the deputy rector of a medical school in the neighboring region of Dagestan, said Gadzhimurad Gadzhimuradov, spokesman for the Dagestan Interior Ministry.

Abusuyev, 23, was kidnapped in March 1999 and kept in a pit. Over 1,000 people have been kidnapped in and near Chechnya in the past three years, mostly by Chechen criminal bands seeking ransom. The Dagestani official said no ransom was paid.

Abusuyev was in poor physical condition and could not walk unassisted, the official said.

Russian forces rolled back into Chechnya last fall after rebels based there invaded Dagestan, and after explosions in apartment houses in Moscow and other cities killed about 300 people. The Chechens were blamed for the explosions.