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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

6 Russians Die in Chechnya

By YURI BAGROVNAZRAN, Russia - Six Russians soldiers died and at least eight others were wounded in fighting in Chechnya in the past 24 hours, an official in Chechnya's pro-Moscow administration said Friday.

As the fighting dragged on, Russian officials said they were searching for an American citizen taken hostage earlier this week, but had no immediate leads. Three other hostages were freed Friday in unrelated cases, officials said.

The rebel attacks on Russian army troops and casualties came mostly in high mountain areas and around the regional capital Grozny, the official said on condition of anonymity.

In one clash on the outskirts of the city, two rebels were killed, he said.

The daily sniper and surprise attacks on Russian positions has intensified in the Vedeno region, where thick fog and muddy roads have kept Russian armored vehicles and helicopters from staging counter attacks, he said.

In the Vedeno region, Russian sappers defused more than 15 mines and booby trapped explosive devices, he said.

Russian soldiers, demoralized by the daily attacks and poor rations and support from Moscow, rarely sally out from their positions to pursue rebel attackers without air or artillery support.

In total, Russian positions were fired at 26 times in the past 24 hours, the official said.

Several Russian law enforcement agencies were active Friday in coordinating a search for kidnapped American Kenny Gluck, ITAR-Tass reported.

Gluck, chief of the Chechen operations for the humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders, was seized on Tuesday by unknown armed men near the village of Stariye Atagi in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains south of Grozny, the organization said.

Hundreds of people, including foreign aid workers, have been taken hostage in and around Chechnya since the end of the previous, 1994-96 conflict. Kidnappers often demand ransoms of more than a million dollars for foreigners, and can be cruel to their captives to encourage payment. There were no reports of leads in Gluck's case.

Meanwhile, officials in Russia and neighboring Georgia freed three other men who had been taken captive in the region.

Rafik Gafurov, identified as a native of the town of Ulyanovsk in central Russia, was set free in Stariye Atagi after being held since Nov. 15, ITAR-tass said, citing Russian police. No other details of his release were made public.

In neighboring Georgia, police freed a Russian citizen and a Georgian who had been held captive in the Pankisi Gorge, said Georgy Rogala, a spokesman for Georgia's Interior Ministry.

The Pankisi Gorge is a mountain area bordering Chechnya where an estimated 7,000 refugees from the war reside.

He identified the hostages as Zaur Gonashvili of Georgia's capital Tbilisi and Vladimir Makeyev, a native of Vladikavkaz in Russia.

Russia's government cited the wave of kidnappings in the region as justification to launch a military campaign in Chechnya in 1999. The revival of hostilities also followed a rebel incursion into a neighboring Russian region and apartment bombings in Moscow that killed about 300 people. Russia blamed the Chechens for the bombings.