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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Military Says Chechen Rebels Attacked Troops in Ingushetia

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GROZNY, Chechnya — The fighting in Chechnya spilled into the neighboring republic of Ingushetia when federal troops were attacked by rebels in the rugged border region, and the clashes killed at least one soldier, officials said Thursday.

Fighting broke out late Wednesday when about 40 federal troops moving in the mountains of Ingushetia near Chechnya’s western border were ambushed by several dozen rebels, said a military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Skirmishes in the forested Dzhairakh gorge continued through the night, and one soldier was killed and several wounded, the officer said.

On Thursday morning, aircraft and artillery dispersed the rebels and two military helicopters evacuated federal soldiers from the scene, the military command said.

The shelling set forests ablaze, and Ingush officials scrambled to contain the fire and limit the damage.

Colonel General Valery Manilov, the deputy chief of General Staff, said at a news conference in Moscow that the rebels had been trying to cross into Ingushetia from Georgia to the south. Manilov said about 100 rebels had been killed and the federal troops had no losses.

Casualty figures were impossible to verify. Manilov and the high command have consistently played down military losses and exaggerated rebel casualties throughout the war. The rebels also overplay enemy losses.

Ingushetia, which shares a language and culture with Chechnya but does not support its separatist bid, has already seen occasional fighting. In May, rebels ambushed a military convoy on a forest road, killing 18 soldiers.

Russia repeatedly has complained that rebels move into and out of Chechnya via Georgia, but Georgian officials deny the charge and scoffed at the report of the latest skirmish.

Rebels, meanwhile, launched four attacks on federal forces in Grozny and three attacks elsewhere in the republic over the past 24 hours, officials said Thursday.