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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mop-Up Operations Continue in Chechnya

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia -- A search of villages in the Shali district of Chechnya continued for a third day Saturday with federal forces rounding up 89 people suspected of participating in rebel operations, an official said.

The sweeps of Starye Atagi, Novye Atagi, Duba-Yurt, Chiri-Yurt and Ulus-Kert came as federal aircraft bombed suspected rebel bases in the Nozhai-Yurt district in eastern Chechnya and artillery shelled insurgent bases in the east and south of the republic, an official in the pro-Moscow Chechen administration said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 89 people were detained in the latest of the so-called mopping-up operations over the past 24 hours. At least another 100 people were detained Thursday and Friday, he said.

Sixteen insurgents were killed in three days of special operations, which were carried out by special units of the Interior Ministry and local police in the Shali district, 25 kilometers southeast of Grozny, Itar-Tass reported Saturday.

At least 11 servicemen were killed and 27 were wounded in a series of small-scale rebel attacks and land-mine explosions over the past 48 hours, the official said. Another soldier died when his car detonated a land mine in the town of Vedeno in southern Chechnya, he said.

A Kamaz truck moving in a convoy through Grozny was blown up by a remote-controlled mine, killing one serviceman and wounding three, the official said.

Three rebels and three federal troops were killed in clashes in Starye Atagi and Tsa-Vedeno, the official said. A military truck was attacked in Achkhoi-Martan, killing two troops and wounding another two, and a military jeep was blown up in Grozny killing two, he said.

The mopping-up operations in the Shali district came after Vladimir Kalamanov, President Vladimir Putin's human-rights envoy to Chechnya, said criminal charges were being considered in connection with similar operations last month. Kalamanov pledged that troops suspected of violating human rights would face prosecution.

Meanwhile, Bislan Gantamirov, a former mayor of Grozny, resigned Friday from his job as federal inspector for the Southern Federal District to return to Chechnya as press minister, Interfax reported, citing local officials. However, Interfax later quoted Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov as saying that Gantamirov had not been given the position. "There was no such appointment," Ilyasov said in an interview with Radio Mayak on Saturday.

The government's minister of Chechen affairs, Vladimir Yelagin, called reports of Gantamirov's new position "rumors."

The Kommersant newspaper, citing unidentified sources, said Gantamirov wanted to return to Chechnya to prepare for future presidential elections. No date has been scheduled, and conflicting reports have emerged about when elections are likely. Last month, a senior Russian official suggested that Chechnya will not be ready for elections until at least 2007.

On Friday, paratroopers chief Georgy Shpak told Interfax that 50 air force officers have received the Hero of Russia title and 7,000 paratroopers have been given orders and medals since the beginning of the second Chechen war two years ago.