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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechens Destroy Chopper, Kill 13

NAZRAN, Ingushetia -- Rebels in Chechnya on Monday shot down a military helicopter, killing 10 senior officers including two generals, and launched an attack on the republic's second-biggest city in the largest and most coordinated rebel assault in months.

Rebels fired a portable surface-to-air missile on the Mi-8 helicopter after it took off from the Chechen capital, Grozny, the military commander in Chechnya, Colonel General Valery Baranov, said on RTR television.

"Two generals and eight colonels of the General Staff were killed" along with three crew members, Baranov said. He said the officers were members of the General Staff team on an inspection trip to the rebel region.

Also Monday, rebels attacked federal outposts on the outskirts of Gudermes, Chechnya's second-largest city, where many officials in the republic's Kremlin-appointed administration are based.

Click here to read our special report on the Conflict in Chechnya.Rebels came at the city from different directions firing automatic weapons and grenade launchers. It was a brazen assault on one of the first cities seized by the Russians after troops entered Chechnya in September 1999, and one full of Russians and Moscow-backed Chechens.

It was also an unusually well-coordinated action by the rebels, who have focused over most of the past year on small-scale raids and planting mines.

At least 10 federal servicemen died in the gunbattle, which lasted for several hours in Gudermes, located about 30 kilometers east of Grozny, Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said on television.

He said military forces responded with aircraft and artillery strikes on the area and had cleared out most rebels by evening.

Baranov said federal troops killed at least 15 rebels in Gudermes. He claimed the military had also detained about 400 people on suspicion of being linked with the attackers.

Reports on the number of rebels who attacked Gudermes varied. The head of the Moscow-appointed Chechen administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, put it at 15, but Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said about 300 militants were believed involved.

Distraught local residents who spoke to The Associated Press near Gudermes put the number of rebels at about 100. They said the attack began at dawn with rebels surrounding most military outposts and administrative buildings in the city and spraying them with gunfire.

Moscow fought a 1994-96 war with Chechen separatists, which ended in a humiliating retreat by federal troops and de facto independence for Chechnya. Federal forces re-entered the region in 1999 after Chechnya-based rebels raided neighboring Dagestan and after more than 300 people died in apartment house bombings that were blamed on the rebels.

Early on in the renewed conflict, federal troops cleared Gudermes of rebels and established a temporary regional capital there. The capital was moved back to Grozny this year, but many officials in the pro-Moscow administration have remained in Gudermes.