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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Federal Troops Launch Air Assault on Chechnya

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia -- Federal troops launched an aerial assault with bombers and helicopters against rebels across Chechnya and closed off roads to a southern district capital for special operations to root out militants, officials said over the weekend.

Helicopters rocketed rebel positions in Chechnya's southeast, Itar-Tass reported. Gunships destroyed a rebel winter camp and killed 10 fighters, an army spokesman told Itar-Tass.

Aircraft also bombed the Itum-Kale and Nozhai-Yurt regions, and helicopters struck the Vedeno region while artillery was used in four other districts, an official in the pro-Moscow Chechen administration said Saturday.

In Moscow, the head of the air force said bad winter weather was complicating pilots' ability to find rebels in Chechnya. "The snow hinders the possibility of detecting rebel bases and camps from the air," General Anatoly Kornukov said, Interfax reported. "Practically all combat missions require triple-checking of targets."

A road leading to Shali was blocked Thursday and more than 150 people across the province were detained on suspicion of participation in rebel activities, an official in the pro-Moscow Chechen administration said Friday.

Troops also used artillery in the Shali district, he said. Armored vehicles were stationed in the center of Shali and traffic prohibited, Interfax cited local officials as saying. The operation under way there "is of a targeted nature," the officials said.

Two beheaded male bodies in civilian clothes were discovered Thursday in a field to the west of Shali, Interfax reported.

 A delegation from the State Duma and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe were headed for Chechnya on Sunday to study conditions in camps for Chechen refugees, Itar-Tass reported.

Tadeus Iwinski, chairman of the PACE commission on migration, refugees and demography and Dmitry Rogozin, chairman of the Duma's international affairs committee, were to arrive in the North Caucasus city of Mineralnye Vody on Sunday night prior to flying to Chechnya by helicopter Monday, Itar-Tass said.

Iwinski and Rogozin will be accompanied by PACE commission members and Duma deputies, the report said. The delegation will meet with Akhmad Kadyrov, the pro-Moscow leader of the Chechen administration Monday.

(AP)