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20 May, 2009 07:20

Terrorists hunted on Ingush-Chechen border

Police in Russia's Northern Caucasus republic of Ingushetia say they are hunting a group of up to 60 suspected militants, thought to be connected to recent attacks in the region.

Police say the group is headed by top Chechen terrorist, Doku Umarov, who's wanted in Russia over alleged murders, kidnapping and terror attacks. These include the Beslan school siege in 2004, which ended in a bloodbath.

The operation is a joint one between authorities in Ingushetia and Chechnya. Both sides agreed to work together after Friday’s suicide attack against an Interior Ministry building in the Chechen capital Grozny.

Responding to the attack, Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov said that those Islamic militants that want to get their place in paradise will be helped.

“If a man comes with a gun in his hands and wants to go to paradise – we’ll give him a chance and help him out.”

Kadyrov says that any militants that continue to fight will be killed. Earlier he declared an amnesty to all those hiding in the forests and urged them to return to a peaceful life.

However, he cancelled the amnesty after Friday’s suicide bomb attack in which four people were killed, including two terrorists. Two police officers also died and two others were injured.

As soon as the identities of the suicide bombers were established, other militants allegedly belonging to the same group were killed and a large scale counter-terrorist operation was launched.

Two foreign mercenaries were said to be part of a group of four militants shot dead.

The body of the fourth militant had been discovered in the forest close to the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia, where the counterterrorism operation is still underway.

Itar-Tass reports that during the operation, a cache with about 4,000 pieces of ammunition, explosives and military equipment was uncovered.

On May 16 a group of at least eight gunmen attacked and kidnapped four residents of the republic and stole their cars.

When police officers attempted to stop them, they came under fire. The republic’s Interior Ministry said counter-terrorist forces released the hostages and killed two militants.

One of the dead militants is reported to have had an Azeri passport. The identity of the second is still being established.

During the chase the militants broke formation and one group disappeared into the forest bordering Chechnya.

The mission to track down the suspected militants is the first large scale anti-terrorist action in Chechnya since the counter-terrorist operation in the republic was lifted a month ago.