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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Says Foreign Militants Killed in Chechnya

An Algerian, three Turks and a German were among 17 militants killed by special forces in a raid on a rebel base in Chechnya late last month, the Kremlin said Wednesday, in an apparent attempt to prove the link between Chechen rebels and international terrorism.

Sergei Yastrzhembsky, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman on Chechnya, said the militants were killed Nov. 23 near the Chechen village of Serzhen-Yurt. They included Algerian Mohamed Kadour, Turkish citizens Halim Oz, Mustafa Salli and Naim Dag, and German citizen Thomas Carl Fischer, Yastrzhembsky said.

Speaking at a news conference, he played a videotape showing federal troops walking among bodies lying on the ground in a forest. He said the federal forces had surrounded the rebel base and killed all the militants they found there, without suffering casualties.

The Kremlin repeatedly has said that rebels in Chechnya have close links with al-Qaida and other international terrorist groups. Putin has rejected Western pressure to launch peace talks with rebel leaders, calling them international terrorists who must be eliminated.

Yastrzhembsky accused Georgia, which borders Chechnya to the south, of serving as a "passage way" for the rebels.

Copies of passports distributed by Yastrzhembsky had a 2001 Georgian visa for the Algerian and 2002 visas for the Turks and the German. He said the third Turkish citizen had crossed the Georgian border in August.

Georgia's acting President Nino Burdzhanadze, who arrived on a visit to Russia on Wednesday, said she had been informed about the fact that the militants killed in Chechnya had Georgian visas. She said that the Georgian authorities had tightened border controls since the time when the visas were issued.

Burdzhanadze was to meet with Putin on Thursday and also hold talks with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and other senior officials.

Yastrzhembsky said it took Russian authorities a month to make the information on the foreign fighters public because they had filed inquiries with the countries whose citizens were killed in the operation.

"We wanted to maintain the gentlemanly character of our partnership with these countries," Yastrzhembsky said. He wouldn't say what was the response, if any.

Yastrzhembsky said Chechen rebels and their supporters had enjoyed a "most favorable atmosphere" for their activities in Turkey, openly raising funds for militants fighting in Chechnya.

Yastrzhembsky said that German Thomas Carl Fischer, born in Tuttlingen in 1978, had converted to Islam and founded an Islamic center in Germany, where he operated under an Islamic-sounding last name.