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Chechen gang targeting generals eliminated

Archive photo

: Gazeta.ru  Archive photo

A rebel gang that specialized in murdering Russian generals has been neutralized in Chechnya, top republican prosecutor Vladimir Kravchenko reported on Wednesday. The members of the gang are suspected of perpetrating a series of major terrorist attacks against the top brass of Russias military.

In particular, the official said, the detained rebels had masterminded the murder of General-Lieutenant Igor Shifrin on November 15, 2002, when the car he was travelling in came under fire in the Chechen capital of Grozny. Shifrin sustained fatal wounds and died soon afterwards.

Members of the same gang also gunned down a Mi-8 helicopter in Grozny in September 2001, resulting in the three crew and ten officers of the General Staff of the Defence Ministry being killed. They were: General-Major Anatoly Pozdnyakov, General-Major Pavel Varfolomeyev, Colonels Igor Abramov, Igor Khakhalkin, Yuri Makhov, Vladimir Smolennikov, Sergei Toryanik, Nikolai Lyubimsky, Igor Tribuntsov and Vladimir Talayev.

''The group has committed a total of about 50 crimes, mostly heinous crimes. The leader and four members of the criminal group have been detained,'' Chechen Prosecutor Vladimir Kravchenko reported on Wednesday. He said that the leader of the criminal group was detained in January 2003. Shoulder-held missile launchers, Kalashnikov rifles, grenade launchers and fragmentation bombs were discovered during a search of his home. Also, a map indicating checkpoints and military bases was discovered, Kravchenko said.

''The detained rebel leader confessed that he had received orders directly from Shamil Basayev, and had killed Gen. Shifrin and shot down the helicopter at Basayev's order,'' he said. Three other detained members of the criminal group were involved in an attack on an Mi-26 helicopter in August 19, 2002, which resulted in the helicopter crashing near the Khankala military base, killing 119 people. The gang is also suspected of killing Lt. Col. Igor Yevseyev of the Federal Security Service in October 2001.

Kravchenko said that criminal charges had been brought against each member of the criminal group. The cases will be investigated and then heard in court.

A day earlier Colonel Ilya Shabalkin, the spokesman for the headquarters of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus, reported that Russian troops had prevented a ''major'' terrorist act in Chechnya.

Shabalkin told Interfax that local residents helped to find homemade bombs made of three 122-mm shells, 50 grams of plastic explosive and an electric detonator hidden near a recently built bridge across the Argun River on the federal highway. The bridge facilitates traffic along the entire Trans-Caucasian highway, including Chechnya. ''Steps are being taken to establish and detain the persons who intended to blow up the bridge,'' Shabalkin said.

He said nine land mines were neutralized, while another 11 caches of arms, ammunition and shells and 15 mini-refineries for stolen oil were destroyed, and 10 pieces of small arms were confiscated in Chechnya in one day.

The combined forces' press centre told Interfax that Grozny remains the main target for rebels subversive activities. Up to 30 small rebel groups operate there disguised as civilians, making it difficult to find them, the centre said.

According to the headquarters, groups led by Doku Umarov are concentrated in the Oktyabrskiy District of Grozny, while field commander Isa Sadayev is trying to assume control over small rebel groups in the Leninskiy District. Military sources also say the situation in Chechnya's Achkhoi-Martan district may deteriorate. Under these complex circumstances, federal units are conducting planned law-enforcement efforts aimed at guaranteeing the civilian population's security, preventing terrorist attacks, eliminating rebel groups and their leaders, and blocking financial channels for criminal activities.

12 16:24


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