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28 May, 2009 09:54

Chechen police maintain hunt for militants

Police in Russia's Republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia are continuing with their efforts to flush out the remaining militants hiding in forests along the Republics' border.

After eleven days, the President of Chechnya says he's determined to press on with the operation until the area is completely safe. However, Chechen policemen themselves have been wary of hunting for the militants in the forest, where the fugitives have the advantage.

“We went to their very nest, to the place where no one has ever been able to get,” said Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

“After ten days of special operations 21 evil-doers were killed. Among them were Georgians, Azeris, Ingush, and Chechens. But bandits don’t have nationalities,” Kadyrov added.

A month after the ten-year long counter-terrorist operation was lifted in Chechnya a suicide bomb attack killed four people in the centre of Chechen capital Grozny. This prompted a joint anti-terrorist mission on the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia.

As well as the police, the two interior ministers are working out a joint plan of attack and they're confident of success.

“We will cut the ground from under them. The bandits will have no rest either in Chechnya or in Ingushetia while we are after them,” promised Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov.

Officials say the militant’s leader Doku Umarov, one of the most wanted terrorists in Russia, managed to flee, though the pursuit continues regardless.

Umarov is believed to be behind the Beslan school siege in 2004 that claimed more than 300 lives. Police say they know his whereabouts and will catch him soon.

The gunmen are reportedly more active on the Ingush side of the border. The Interior Ministry says that they have found nearly 30 well-equipped military bases belonging to the militants over the last month. Security forces are searching the forest around the clock, but no one knows when the mission will be accomplished, which means the Chechen police are dealing with a very well-organized enemy.

Two killed in Kabardino-Balkaria

Meanwhile, in another North Caucasian republic, Kabardino-Balkaria, two suspected militants have been killed during a police operation. The security services say the gang comprised four men.

Officers stormed a flat in a residential block. Three of the suspects temporarily escaped to a neighboring apartment, where they were killed. However, one other managed to evade the police and is on the run.

Interfax, citing a source in a law enforcement agency, writes that the militant still remains in the building.

The source said the operation has become complicated, since the gunmen managed to get into flats left by people when the evacuation started and has set explosives all over the building.

One of the dead men is believed to have been behind a terrorist attack on the capital Nalchik in October 2005, when more than a hundred militants staged a two-day assault on the city, resulting in over 130 deaths – including at least 14 civilians. Many other people were wounded.