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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rebel Commander Shirvani Basayev Killed

Russia said Monday its troops had killed Chechen rebel field commander Shirvani Basayev, the brother of one of the main guerrilla leaders in the breakaway province.

The office of Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the Kremlin's Chechnya spokesman said Basayev, the brother of top field commander Shamil Basayev, had been "annihilated" in a special operation and had already been buried.

An aide to Yastrzhembsky declined to give any further details on the operation. A spokeswoman for Russia's FSB security police also confirmed Shirvani Basayev's death.

Russia has claimed several times in the past that top rebel commanders, including both Basayev brothers, have been killed or injured. These reports have rarely proven true, although Shamil Basayev did lose a foot earlier this year in a minefield.

A spokesman at the rebel Chechen information centre in London could neither confirm nor deny the report.

Shamil Basayev has been Russia's most wanted man since leading a hostage-taking raid on the southern Russian town of Budennovsk in 1995. He emerged last year at the helm of Chechen guerrilla groups that invaded other nearby Russian regions.

His brother Shirvani is also a substantial figure in the pro-independence rebel movement and participated in peace talks with Russia in 1996-97.

His death, if confirmed, would be a major success for Moscow, which has previously failed to kill or capture any of the most senior rebels since launching a campaign to crush them last September.

Russian troops have nominal control of virtually all Chechen territory, but have failed to bring peace to the region and still come under daily bomb and firearm attacks by the rebels. They have vowed to deal the rebels a crushing blow this winter.

Russia's armed forces chief of staff, Anatoly Kvashnin, was quoted last week as saying the military intended to take its troops out of the safety of army bases and deploy them in small contingents across the rebel region.

Kvashnin said a task force would hunt down leading Chechen commanders who form the backbone of rebel resistance.