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Wednesday October 4, 2000

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Russians kill Chechen commander

By The Associated Press

NAZRAN, Russia - Russian troops killed a Chechen rebel leader who had organized continual militant attacks on federal forces in the capital Grozny, a Kremlin spokesman said yesterday.

Isa Munayev, who had been the rebel military commandant of Grozny, was killed on Thursday when a group of rebels was trying to blow up a Russian military truck, said Konstantin Makeyev, an aide to Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky.

There was no immediate confirmation from the rebels' side.

Munayev was among the rebels who have kept Russian forces in Grozny and other nominally Russian-controlled areas on the defensive with ambushes, car bombs and mine explosions, Russian officials said.

Such attacks have increased in recent months as federal forces have concentrated their air and artillery attacks on the mountainous south. An official in the pro-Russian Chechen government in the northern town of Gudermes said yesterday that federal positions had been attacked at least 19 times over the past 24 hours.

A Chechen woman was killed and six people were injured yesterday when the bus they were riding in hit a mine near Novye Atagi, 15 miles south of Grozny, the Interfax news agency reported.

Two members of the Russian Federal Security Service were killed on Monday when their truck hit a land mine that had been planted outside the southeastern town of Shali, the Gudermes official said.

Two Russian soldiers were wounded in a shootout with rebels near Zhani-Vedeno, southeast of Grozny, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Rebels also engaged Russian troops patrolling the border with Georgia in a 30-minute firefight, but no Russian casualties were reported. The military claimed to have dispersed the rebels with heavy artillery bombardment of their retreat routes, the official said.

Russian airplanes and helicopters pounded the border regions of Itum-Kale, near Georgia, and Nozhai-Yurt, near the Russian republic of Dagestan, over the past 24 hours. They also bombed the Argun and Vedeno gorges, the main channels for rebel transports of men and supplies, and the forests of the Shali and Kurchaloi regions in southern Chechnya, the official said.

Chechen rebels pushed Russian troops out of the breakaway republic after winning de facto independence in a 1994-96 war. But the Russians returned a year ago after Chechnya-based rebels raided Dagestan and after a series of terrorist bombings in Russian cities that killed some 300 people.