. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Officials Confirm Raid Against Friendly Town

COMBINED REPORTS


Pro-Moscow Chechen officials said Saturday that one civilian was killed and eight, including four children, were badly wounded in a Russian helicopter raid on a peaceful town.


The Russian military command confirmed the raid on Urus-Martan but said it was targeting rebel guerrillas.


In the attack Friday night, four helicopters rocketed the rebels who had earlier fired on Russian aircraft from a house on Urus-Martan's outskirts, a high-ranking officer told Interfax.


But the district administrator, Yusup Elmurzayev, said civilians were those who suffered. One man was killed, and the wounded included children aged 2 to 6, he said. In Grozny, the capital, Moscow-backed prosecutors said they have launched a criminal investigation into the raid, the second this week on Urus-Martan, 20 kilometers southwest of Grozny.


It remained unclear whether there were indeed any rebels in Urus-Martan, which has not supported the separatist cause and is seen as pro-Russian.


The town, considered one of the few relatively safe places in the war-shattered region, is filled with refugees.


On Tuesday, several helicopters strafed the town's marketplace for no apparent reason, killing five and wounding 21 people. The top Russian commander in Chechnya, Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, denies his forces carried out that attack.


In another development Saturday, the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists urged President Boris Yeltsin to conduct an "exhaustive investigation" into the killing of journalist Nina Yefimova, believed to be prompted by her reports on crime in Chechnya.


Yefimova, who worked for Grozny's Russian-language newspaper Vozrozhdeniye (Revival), and her mother were reportedly abducted from their apartment Wednesday, then shot execution-style. Their bodies were discovered Thursday, the committee said.


International medical aid group M?decins sans Fronti?res said Saturday that Chechen gunmen have released two aid workers held hostage for almost two weeks.


Daniella Cerovic, 27, a Yugoslav administrator with M?decins sans Fronti?res, and a local translator named only as Sergei, were set free Friday after 13 days, the Brussels-based agency said in a statement.


The pair were in good health and had not been mistreated, said the statement released Friday evening. They were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen April 27 near the Chechen capital of Grozny.


The group said no ransom had been paid to secure their release. The kidnappers had reportedly demanded $200,000 in ransom. ()