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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Military: 6 Rebels Killed in Skirmish

ReutersAkhmed Zakayev
Six rebels were killed early Monday in a skirmish with federal troops in Chechnya after they tried unsuccessfully to carry out an attack against the troops, a military spokesman said.

A Chechen rebel representative abroad, Akhmed Zakayev, denied that any clash had occurred and accused the military of spreading disinformation to undermine rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov's cease-fire declaration earlier this month.

Major General Ilya Shabalkin, a spokesman for federal forces in Chechnya, said the clash occurred during an ambush of a group of 15 to 20 rebels near the towns of Stariye and Noviye Atagi, just south of Grozny.

The rebels had tried to infiltrate Starye Atagi, Shabalkin said.

He said four rebels' bodies were found at the scene of the overnight battle, and two were found severely wounded on the militants' getaway route. They died without regaining consciousness.

Military officials have said rebel attacks continue despite the truce, which they have dismissed as a publicity stunt, and they contend that most of the rebels are beyond Maskhadov's control.

"From day one after the cease-fire was announced, the Russian authorities have been trying to discredit this initiative," said Zakayev, who is Maskhadov's foreign envoy, by telephone from London. "The cease-fire is being observed and no one has called it, off in spite of the fact that Russia has ignored it."

Also Monday, the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights said that a prominent Chechen human rights advocate had resurfaced after having been missing for several weeks. Makhmut Magomadov reportedly was seized by Chechen security forces on Jan. 21, and the IHF had expressed concern that he was being tortured. IHF executive director Aaron Rhodes said there were "a lot of unanswered questions" about the case.

Magomadov had told friends and associates that he had been detained by mistake on Jan. 21 and let go shortly thereafter, and that he had been hiding since then, Rhodes said. "My feeling is he was in captivity since the 21st, and it is possible he's been told that if he reveals the facts there will be consequences," Rhodes said by telephone from Vienna.

Chechens and rights groups have consistently complained about the seizure of civilians in abductions and in the so-called mopping-up operations by federal troops and Chechen security forces alike.