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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Military Seals Chechen Border Amid Terrorism Fears




NAZRAN, Ingushetia -- Fearing guerrilla attacks, federal troops said they sealed Chechnya's borders Tuesday and conducted another wave of house-to-house searches.


The security services have warned that Chechen terrorists could strike Wednesday, which is both a Russian holiday honoring the military and the day Chechens commemorate the beginning of their mass deportation to Central Asia in 1944 under Josef Stalin.


In the ruins of Grozny, troops appeared tense, generally sticking close to their checkpoints and bunkers. Soldiers were overheard discussing rumors that the Chechen warlord Khattab was leading a band of 700 fighters to attack Gudermes, Chechnya's second-largest city.


In a message posted on the rebel Internet web site kavkaz.org, Chechnya's separatist vice president, Vakha Arsanov, denied the fighters were planning any action on Wednesday.


But Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, on a brief visit to the Chechen capital, told NTV television that stringent security measures had been introduced throughout Russia.


RIA news agency said over the last 24 hours police forces had checked the identity of more than 2,000 people in Chechnya and had arrested 58 of them.


A policeman guarding a checkpoint at Chechnya's western border said it would be closed at noon to stop rebels crossing to neighboring regions.


A fierce battle raged Tuesday around Shatoi, the heaviest fortified rebel-held town in the Argun gorge.


At the opposite, southern end of the gorge, Russian border guards clashed for several hours with a group of rebels trying to escape to neighboring Georgia, Russian news agencies reported.


Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said his forces were determined to wipe out the rebels before spring melts the mountain snows, which could open new escape routes for the rebels.