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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Explosions Kill 5 People in Chechnya

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia -- Explosions rocked a crowded Chechen city street and a bus in Grozny on Tuesday, killing at least five people and wounding several others, officials said.

Federal authorities sealed off the city of Shali, 25 kilometers southeast of Grozny, after a series of blasts killed two young sisters and seriously wounded their mother and nine others, said an official in the pro-Moscow Chechen administration. Citing prosecutors, Itar-Tass reported that three people were killed.

Chechen prosecutors said federal troops may have been responsible for the series of blasts in which the two girls were killed.

Hours later, a passenger bus exploded on a land mine near the central market in Grozny, killing three passengers and wounding 13, said the administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

After the blasts in Shali, servicemen blocked traffic and began building-by-building searches for rebels, the official said. However, a Chechen prosecutor, Nikolai Kostyuchenkov, told Russian media that federal troops might have unleashed the blasts through negligence. He said remnants of howitzer shells were found at the site.

Hundreds of Chechen civilians gathered in the center of the town to demand justice from the military, television stations reported.

The Grozny explosion shattered the bus windows, leaving shards of blood-drenched glass scattered across the street. Passenger Anisa Tatasheva said that seconds before the explosion the bus passed a military jeep, which may have been the intended target.

Also during the last 24 hours, eight soldiers and OMON troops died in small-scale attacks, the pro-Moscow Chechen administration official said.

Meanwhile, Georgia's defense chief said the country was planning major military exercises that would encompass the Pankisi Gorge, where Russia says Chechen rebels are based.

Russian officials have said most of the main rebel groups in Chechnya are crushed, but that separatists hiding in Georgia continue to ferry in supplies and reinforcements. Georgia does not deny that Chechen rebels may be hiding in the lawless gorge, but blames Russia for the problem.

Russia has pressed Georgia to take action against the militants it says are based in the Pankisi Gorge.

Georgia has turning down Russian requests to allow its troops to launch raids in the gorge, but Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze said Monday that the military is planning large-scale exercises in an area that encompasses Pankisi.

Tevzadze told a news conference that officers who have been trained in Georgia by American specialists as part of the U.S.-led war on terrorism would take part in the exercises. U.S. officials have said terrorists in the Pankisi Gorge also have links to al-Qaida.

Tevzadze did not give a timetable for the military exercises, which he said should help "stabilize the situation in the region."