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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Additional Checkpoints Erected in Chechnya

NAZRAN, Russia - A car exploded in southwestern Chechnya, killing two alleged bombers, and rebels killed four Russian servicemen in a spate of attacks, an official said Wednesday.

The small passenger car blew up Tuesday as it was approaching a market in the town of Urus-Martan, 20 kilometers southwest of the capital Grozny, said an official in the pro-Russian administration in Chechnya. Two people in the car were killed when a bomb exploded prematurely, he said on condition of anonymity.

Russian forces have beefed up security in Chechnya this week in anticipation of terrorist attacks, erecting additional checkpoints on Chechen roads and carrying out extensive checks of people's identification documents.

On Monday, the military destroyed the main market in Grozny, a vital source of income for thousands of Chechens who make their living as traders. Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said that the market had become a danger to Russian servicemen. The Chechen government official Wednesday said that 18 soldiers had disappeared or been killed in the market in November alone.

Rebels struck federal positions across Chechnya 19 times over the past 24 hours, killing four Russian soldiers and wounding 12 more, the government official said. Two more servicemen were wounded in a clash near the village of Khatuni, in the mountainous southern region of Vedeno, the official said. Five rebels were killed in the firefight. Russian servicemen have been searching villages and towns for people with ties to the rebels. This week, they found weapons depots and rebel caches of medicines in four cities: Grozny, Urus-Martan, Argun and Achkhoi-Martan. The Chechen government official said that the arsenals included big amounts of explosives.

Russian officials have claimed repeatedly that the rebels were on the brink of defeat, but the militants have steadily bled the federal forces with daily hit-and-run attacks.

Rebels pushed the Russian military out of Chechnya in a 1994-96 war, but federal forces returned in September 1999 after rebels raided the neighboring Russian region of Dagestan and after about 300 Russians were killed in apartment bombings blamed on the militants.