Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Troops Hunt for Rebels After Crash

ROSTOV-ON-DON -- Federal soldiers and police are scouring forested and mountainous terrain in southern Chechnya after clashing with at least 15 armed militants, Chechen officials said.

The search in Chechnya's Shatoi region came after a Mi-8 helicopter heading to the region crashed Friday, killing all 18 people aboard in what was the largest single-day loss of life reported by the federal military in Chechnya in at least two years.

Officials have not confirmed whether the craft was shot down, but the fact that it was en route to a military operation underlined that Chechnya's insurgency remains active, although significantly quieter than a few years ago.

Officials with Chechnya's Interior Ministry said up to 15 militants fired on Defense and Interior ministries units Sunday, inflicting no injuries, before fleeing. Federal officials sent additional reinforcements.

It was unclear how many federal troops were participating in the search. Defense Ministry officials refused to comment on the operations.

A rebel-linked web site, Daymohk.org, said in a posting dated Monday that about 20 fighters had clashed with federal troops in the Shatoi region Friday, but gave no details.

Magomed Deniyev, a Chechen Interior Ministry spokesman, said experts were still trying to determine what brought down the Mi-8 helicopter.

Another rebel-linked web site, Kavkazcenter.com, claimed that rebels had brought down the craft.

Meanwhile, a bomb exploded in Ingushetia on Tuesday, seriously injuring two soldiers. The soldiers were searching for militants in a wooded area at night when they accidentally set off the device, which was apparently fashioned out of an anti-personnel mine.

In Dagestan, a pipeline carrying gas to the city of Khasavyurt exploded Sunday, leaving most city residents without gas but causing no injuries. Authorities blamed the blast on terrorists.