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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Bomber Crashes Near Chechnya

NAZRAN, Russia - A Russian Su-24M bomber crashed during landing at a military air field in Ingushetia, next door to rebel Chechnya, but the crew escaped unharmed, officials said Monday.

The crash, which took place shortly before midnight Sunday, came at the close of a day of intense bombing raids by SU-24 bombers and other aircraft against suspected rebels in southern Chechnya.

But Russian Air Force spokesman Oleg Litvinov said the bomber was returning from a training flight and that the crash was caused by heavy fog over the air field in the Ingush town of Mozdok. He refused to specify the itinerary of the flight.

No injuries or damage to ground equipment was reported, Litvinov said. A commission headed by deputy Air Force commander Colonel. General Vladimir Mikhailov was investigating the crash, he said.

Interfax, citing unidentified military sources, reported that the bomber could have been damaged by rebel fire.

Russian warplanes hammered the Argun and Vedeno Gorges in southern Chechnya on Sunday in an unusually intense assault, said a pro-Russian official in Chechnya's administration in Gudermes.

Heavy Russian artillery also shelled the Itum-Kale district, on the border with Georgia, the official said on condition of anonymity.

While large-scale fighting in Chechnya stopped months ago, small bands of insurgents continue to attack Russian checkpoints and military convoys, and plant mines on Chechen roads used by federal troops.

Russian checkpoints came under fire 13 times overnight, the pro-Russian official said Monday. Two federal servicemen were killed, and at least eight were wounded.

A Russian armored personnel carrier blew up on a mine Sunday in the southern village of Serzhen-Yurt. Three servicemen were killed, and three more were wounded.

Rebels fired grenade-launchers at a gasoline tank at a Russian army base near the village of Starye Atagi, south of Grozny, setting the tank on fire. One Russian serviceman died of burns, the official said.

Meanwhile, Russian prosecutors have brought charges of murder, kidnapping and other crimes against Badrudin Murtazayev, a top aide to warlord Shamil Basayev, and field commander Ruslan Akhmadov, Interfax reported.

The two men were arrested last week. Akhmadov is suspected of complicity in more than 30 kidnappings in Chechnya, including the abduction in 1998 of three Britons and a New Zealander who were later killed.

Russian troops failed to suppress Chechnya's independence bid during the first, 1994-96 Chechen war. They returned to the breakaway republic in September 1999 following rebel incursions into a neighboring region and apartment bombings in Russia blamed on the rebels.