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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Copters Sweep Mountains for Rebels From Georgia

Helicopter gunships strafed Chechnya's southern mountains Monday in an attempt to wipe out a group of rebels who allegedly crossed in from neighboring Georgia, while Moscow renewed its call for a military operation on Georgian soil.

The fighting began Saturday, when Russian border guards spotted a group of rebels who they said had crossed the border from Georgia.

Georgian border guards issued their own accusation, saying a Russian aircraft had crossed into Georgian airspace early Monday and dropped bombs that killed several sheep. There was no immediate response from the Russian side.

In three days of fighting, seven Russian border guards were killed and another five wounded, said Viktoria Studenikina, a spokeswoman for the Federal Border Service's regional headquarters in the North Caucasus.

Studenikina said Monday that the border guards had killed nine rebels and captured another two. She said the border guards had called in military helicopter gunships, which on Monday were raiding the rugged mountains in an attempt to kill the rebels. Studenikina said some 60 rebels were blocked in the mountains, while some Russian reports put their number at up to 200.

The fighting prompted Moscow to renew its call for Georgia to let Russian troops go after Chechen rebels allegedly holed up in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. "We are seeing that large gangs of terrorists remain in Georgia, which can't do anything to them and won't be able to cope with them in the foreseeable future," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said. "This problem can never be solved without the Russian armed forces."