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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechen Rebels Kill 5 Soldiers

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia -- Rebels strafed federal positions with gunfire and blew up a military vehicle with a land mine, killing five soldiers and wounding 11 in the last 24 hours, an official in the Moscow-backed Chechen administration said Tuesday.

Federal forces clashed with rebels outside Avtury village in the Shali district southeast of Grozny. Five soldiers were wounded, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Two rebels were killed.

A military vehicle hit a land mine outside the Yubileinaya village in the northern Naursky district. The force of the explosion killed one soldier and wounded two, the official said.

In scattered rebel attacks, federal positions came under fire 15 times since Monday. Four soldiers died and four were wounded, the official said.

Over the last 24 hours, Russian troops pounded rebel bases in the Urus-Martan and Shali districts from the air, and shelled groups of rebels in the Shatoi, Vedeno and Urus-Martan districts, the official said.

Federal forces also rounded up 160 people in operations intended to flush out rebel sympathizers. The sweeps have been widely condemned for alleged human rights abuses.

Also Tuesday, a car carrying a local administration official, Alsudin Dzhambulatov, and two other people came under rebel fire outside Achkoi-Martan village. All three passengers were wounded, the Chechen official said. The rebels escaped.

Meanwhile, Deputy Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the State Duma, questioned the Kremlin's decision to hold Chechen presidential elections on Oct. 5.

"I am not able to explain why there is such a hurry to hold elections," Aslakhanov told Ekho Moskvy radio. "Why is it so necessary?"