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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Military Catches Rebels Setting Road Mines, Kills 6

NAZRAN, Ingushetia - Federal troops killed six Chechen rebels in a running gun battle after federal forces stumbled on a group of insurgents planting mines on a country road, officials said Wednesday.

The clash Tuesday near the Chechen village of Samashki began when two armored personnel carriers used by Interior Ministry troops were blown up by mines, an administrator in the pro-Moscow Chechen administration said.

Interior Ministry troops rushed to the scene and discovered about 15 militants laying more mines, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Federal officials said a rebel commander, Abu Khadzhiyev, and five fighters were killed in the shootout. About 10 rebels escaped into nearby hills. The officials did not say whether federal forces suffered any losses.

A military commander told NTV television that Khadzhiyev specialized in ambushing troops on the road and he had evaded arrest by using the identification of slain Russian policemen.

"The bandit Abu Khadzhiyev was on the wanted list and committed 12 murders of Interior Ministry employees. On this road he committed murder many times," said Interior Minister commander Mikhail Labunets.

He showed a bloodied police identification card that he said Khadzhiyev used to masquerade as a police officer.

A spokesman with the Kremlin's information center for Chechnya said rebels were planning new attacks on Grozny and other major towns in the republic, Interfax reported. The spokesman said rebels were gathering in Chechnya's southeastern Vedeno district in preparation for new attacks.

Federal forces have boosted security after warning of possible attacks since Sunday, the fourth anniversary of the day in 1996 when rebels recaptured Grozny during the first Chechen war.

Officials said increased security measures would remain in effect for the next several days, Itar-Tass reported.

Chechen gunmen fired on federal positions nine times in the past 24 hours, the military said Wednesday. The attacks included four on checkpoints in Grozny, which troops have occupied since February but never fully controlled.