Four Russian troops killed in Chechnya operation: ministry
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
AP file photoIslamic insurgents killed four Russian troops and wounded 16 as federal forces attempted to flush out a rebel hideout in a mountainous region of Chechnya, the interior ministry said Monday.
Three interior ministry troops and one policeman have been killed in the ongoing operation, the interior ministry said, while 16 troops and police have been wounded and several will be medically evacuated to Moscow.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov on Sunday gave an initial death toll of two soldiers and five wounded, two of them with shrapnel injuries, in an operation near the village of Tazen-Kala hindered by deep snow and thick fog.
"In the snow it's impossible to see tripwires and mines, which was one of the reasons for the injuries and for the deaths of four participants in the operation," a source in the operations headquarters told the Interfax news agency on Monday.
The source said that four rebels had been killed, including one rebel who opened fire on police and was killed in a gunfight.
Kadyrov had said Sunday that the operation was close to achieving its objective. "We have practically found their den and we are now doing everything we can to destroy them in their den," he was quoted as saying on his government website.
The Kremlin has been fighting insurgents in the North Caucasus since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, waging a war in 1994-96 against separatist rebels in Chechnya.
After a second war in Chechnya began in 1999, the rebellion's inspiration moved towards Islam with the aim of imposing an Islamic state in the region.
Although the war ended in 2000, rebels have waged an increasingly deadly insurgency, with unrest spreading into other areas of the North Caucasus.