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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

6 Soldiers Die in Convoy Ambush

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia -- Unidentified gunmen ambushed a Russian military convoy traveling near the border with Chechnya, killing six soldiers and wounding seven, the military said Friday.

The convoy came under automatic gunfire Thursday evening near the village of Alkhasty, in the republic of Ingushetia, a duty officer at the North Caucasus military command center said. The band of approximately 30 gunmen slipped back into the woods after the attack.

The attack came on a day of heavy rebel activity. On Thursday, the military command center said rebels shot down a military helicopter in southern Chechnya with a shoulder-fired missile, killing the pilot. But Friday, military officials denied that the Mi-8 helicopter had been shot down, saying it crashed during poor weather and strong winds.

Two of the crew were evacuated from the mountainous region, a rebel stronghold, and hospitalized in serious condition. Initial reports had said all three crew members were killed in the crash.

Meanwhile, early Friday morning, a military unit based in Goragorsky in the Nadterechny region of northern Chechnya, usually a relatively peaceful area, clashed with a band of rebels, residents said. The fighting lasted until daybreak and left one soldier injured and damaged several village homes. The rebels slipped away.

 Dutch authorities have been given a videotape showing recent images of a Dutch doctor kidnapped a year ago, his relief organization said Friday.

Arjan Erkel, 33, was kidnapped on Aug. 12, 2002 by three gunmen in Dagestan, which borders Chechnya.

Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad said Erkel, who headed the regional mission of Medecins Sans Frontieres, appears to be in good health in the video, speaks in Russian and asks for ransom money for his captors.

MSF spokeswoman Marieke van Zalk confirmed that a video had been received but said reports of its contents are "speculation."

"A videotape was delivered to the Dutch Embassy in Moscow six or seven weeks ago," she said. "It's not clear exactly where he is or who is holding him."

Ruslan Khasbulatov, who led Russia's recalcitrant parliament when Boris Yeltsin shelled it into submission a decade ago, on Friday announced his candidacy for the Chechen presidential election.

"I have made a firm decision to run," Khasbulatov was quoted as saying by Interfax.