Russians report 19 Chechen rebels killed


Russian troops killed 19 separatists in a major operation in the southeast of Chechnya, Interfax news agency quoted a chief military spokesman in the troubled region as saying today.

Thirteen rebels died in a shootout in Nozhai-Yurt district some 50 km southeast of the regional capital Grozny, the spokesman told the agency.

Six rebels were killed in the same area yesterday in a Russian commando raid on guerrilla hideouts, he said.

Small units of specially trained commandos have become one of the most effective instruments in Russia's war against separatist insurgency in Chechnya.

Russia sent troops back to Chechnya in 1999 to end Chechnya's short-lived independence won in the previous war of 1994-96.

Despite an end to large-scale fighting soldiers, policemen and pro-Moscow officials die weekly in rebel ambushes.

Itar-Tass news agency said early on Sunday a senior functionary of the pro-Kremlin political party United Russia was killed in her home in the town of Shali east of Grozny.

Rebels have intensified their activities as Chechnya prepares to elect a new leader to replace pro-Moscow President Akhmad Kadyrov killed in a bomb blast in Grozny on May 9th. The polls are scheduled for August 29th.

Russia says the separatist resistance is inspired and financed from abroad by radical Muslim groups, including al Qaeda and describes its crackdown on rebels as part of the international war on terror.