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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Airman Killed in Chechnya

VLADIKAVKAZ, Southern Russia -- Ground fire brought down a Russian military helicopter flying over the rebel republic of Chechnya, killing one pilot and wounding the other, officials said Wednesday.

The Mi-24 from a Russian base in the neighboring region of North Ossetia was on a reconnaissance mission, said Zaur Dzarakhokhov, a local government spokesman.

He said the helicopter crash landed near the base after being hit Tuesday, apparently by fire from a large-caliber machine gun. Both pilots survived the crash, but one later died in hospital, he said.

The incident came amid reports of new clashes Tuesday between government and opposition forces in Chechnya, a nation of 1.2 million, mostly Moslem people in the rugged Caucasus Mountains.

Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev declared independence from Russia in 1991. He says Moscow, which backs his opponents, is trying to oust him in order to reclaim Chechnya as its own.

Russia on Tuesday accused Dudayev of "shedding the blood of innocent people" and warned that it would do whatever is necessary to restore constitutional order in Chechnya after Dudayev launched an offensive on opposition forces in the northwestern Nadterechny region.