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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russians Drive Rebels From Village

KHASAVYURT, Southern Russia -- Russian troops bombed rebel positions in Dagestan on Friday, pushing guerrillas out of at least one village and stepping up attempts to drive out others from the mountainous republic.

Interior Ministry troops and armed forces were fighting on more than one front against the Chechen-led rebels, making a series of gains against what the ministry calls well-armed guerrillas.

Russian jets also bombed targets in Chechnya during the night, hitting several villages along the Dagestani border and killing 125 people, the Chechen government said Friday. Federal forces had hit rebels' bases in the breakaway republic previously.

The air force denied the claim of airstrikes, while an Interior Ministry spokesman in Dagestan, Mikhail Arkhipov, said he could not confirm or deny it. He acknowledged that Russia was targeting groups of militants near the Chechen border, and said bombs could have fallen on Chechen territory.

The Chechen Interior Ministry said bombs hit the villages of Borozdinovskaya, Dubovskaya and Kargalinovskaya in the vicinity of Kizlyar, and Bamut was targeted for the first time since the Chechen war ended in 1996, Interfax reported.

Aircraft also dropped bombs on the villages of Zamai-Yurt, Galaity, Gilyany and Nozhai-Yurt. Avtury and Serzhen-Yurt were hit for the second time.

The Health Ministry reported 125 killed and more than 200 hospitalized. Numerous refugees from villages along the Dagestani border were on their way to Grozny, Interfax said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the military operation against the rebels was difficult, especially in central Dagestan, because guerrillas had spent two years setting up a strong military infrastructure to guard the region.

"No kind of hysteria is necessary, no talk of when it should be completed is necessary because we will not start any military operation that has a deadline," Putin said in televised comments.

The Interior Ministry in Dage stan said Russian troops had freed Gamiyakh village, near the border with Chechnya, and had made progress in the western part of Karamakhi, a mountainous village in central Dagestan.

Dagestani volunteers were patrolling Gamiyakh, allowing residents to return to their homes.

"Federal troops have finished a clean-up operation in Gamiyakh and it has been cleared of fighters," a ministry spokesman said in the regional capital, Makhachkala. He said such an operation included getting rid of snipers and ensuring "not one person who can disrupt the lives of those living there remains."

Locals said they believed rebels were still hiding nearby, saying they had heard gunfire and artillery attacks in other parts of the Novolaksk district. They said many rebels had fled to other villages.

Said Osmanov, 25, said: "Thank God that the extremists have gone." Many of the locals said when they returned to their homes many of their valuables had disappeared.

Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo and Chief of Staff Anatoly Kvashnin arrived in Dagestan on Friday to meet the region's leader and troop commanders.

They are also due to visit forces in the Novolaksk region and the Buinaksk area, where a car bomb ripped through an army officers' apartment block last weekend.