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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Military: Mercenary Band Destroyed




The military said Friday its forces had wiped out what it called a band of Arab mercenaries fighting on the side of Chechen rebels.


A military spokesman told RTR state television that the band of Arab fighters had been intercepted as they tried to cross the border from Chechnya into neighboring Georgia.


"During the clash, 21 fighters were killed," the spokesman said. He said the group's leader, a Yemeni who was close to well-known Arab-born Chechen commander Khattab, was wounded.


The spokesman said the group included fighters from Yemen, Morocco and several other Arab nations.


It is not clear how many non-Chechens are fighting in the ranks of the rebels, although Moscow has often said that the separatists have been reinforced by fighters from Arab states.


Some of the separatist leaders have portrayed the war against Moscow as a holy war of Moslems against Russia.


Two army officers who disappeared in the southern Vedeno region in late July were still missing.


Kremlin officials denied Russian news reports that their decapitated bodies had been found, Itar-Tass reported.


The rebels claimed to have captured the two, whom they have identified as lieutenant colonels. The rebel web site, Kavkaz.org, announced a proposal Friday to trade the two for a Russian officer accused of raping and killing a Chechen girl.


The rebels have repeatedly demanded that the officer, who is currently under military arrest, be turned over to them.


Federal forces have been ambushed several times in recent months, and Kavkaz.org reported three new attacks in which a total of 20 troops were killed. The report could not be confirmed.


Russian news agencies reported that Moscow's forces had been in action overnight, with artillery blasting rebel positions in the southern Argun and Vedeno gorges.


The guns hit two areas where guerrillas were dug in and forced three groups to disperse, the agencies said.