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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Military to Probe Killings

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia -- The military is taking charge of the investigation into the alleged killing of civilians during a federal security sweep through the Chechen village of Stariye Atagi earlier this month, an official told Interfax on Tuesday.

Deputy Chechen Prosecutor Alexander Nikitin said federal military prosecutors are taking over three of the four cases opened by his office, Interfax reported. It was not clear if the military was preparing to press charges against any of the soldiers involved.

Local prosecutors launched the investigation several weeks ago after the discovery of a number of burned and bullet-ridden bodies in Stariye Atagi. They were found after federal troops conducted a four-day security sweep through the village, about 18 kilometers south of Grozny.

Residents of Stariye Atagi have insisted the victims were civilians. Several hundred villagers traveled to Grozny earlier this month and held a protest rally outside the headquarters of the Moscow-backed administration, displaying seven badly burned corpses.

The military has said some of the villagers in Stariye Atagi put up armed resistance and others tried to break through a security blockade during the sweep operation.

Over the past 24 hours, federal troops have conducted sweeps in Grozny and in the towns of Shali, Vedeno and Gudermes, detaining 120 people on suspicion of rebel ties, an official in the Moscow-backed administration of Chechnya said Tuesday, on condition of anonymity. Seven Russian soldiers were killed and 25 wounded since Monday, he added.

 The Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it had issued a formal request for Georgia to extradite Chechen warlord Ruslan Gelayev, who is believed to be hiding in the mountains in the republic.

The request made through the Georgian Embassy in Moscow demanded that Georgia extradite Gelayev, who is being sought on charges of leading "illegal armed formations" in attacks on federal forces in Chechnya, the ministry said in a statement.