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    More than 50 soldiers killed in Russia clashes

    HotNewsTurkey with wires
    18.10.2008 - 17:01 | Son Güncelleme:

    A local opposition website in the volatile province of Ingushetia in southern Russia on Saturday quoted an official saying more than 50 soldiers were killed in three clashes with militia fighters. (UPDATED)

    Russian officials were quoted as saying in news agency reports that only two soldiers were killed and five more injured in an attack on a military column.

     

    "A source from the Sunzhensky region interior ministry said around 50 soldiers were killed" in a single attack in which armored personnel carriers and trucks were also destroyed, AFP reported citing the Ingushetia.org website.

     

    Five more soldiers were killed in two other attacks, the website said, adding that officials were trying to hide the real number of casualties.

     

    Ingushetia.org also cited one of its correspondents in reports about the attacks.

     

    Russia's armed forces launched a counter-terrorist operation in the Caucasus region of Ingushetia on Saturday after an attack on a convoy of Interior Ministry troops.

     

    A regional law enforcement source told Reuters 40 were killed in the attack, making it the most deadly in a recent series of attacks on troops in Ingushetia, a small territory bordering Chechnya.

    "The soldiers didn't even manage to resist, because several rocket-propelled grenades hit their trucks," the source said, adding that three armoured personnel carriers and two trucks were hit by automatic rifle fire and grenades.

    All but one soldier travelling in the convoy were killed, the source said.

    If the toll is confirmed, the clashes would be one of the biggest losses for Russian security forces since the end of major combat operations against separatist rebels in neighboring Chechnya.

     

    Small-scale attacks on soldiers and police occur regularly in Ingushetia, a largely Muslim region of the North Caucasus. The attacks are often blamed on separatist rebels and Islamist fighters.

     

    Human rights activists from the Moscow Helsinki Group last month warned that "state-sponsored terror" in Igushetia including kidnappings, murders and torture could plunge the country into civil war.

     

    Ingushetia.org said one of Fridays attack occurred near the village of Galashki in which "around 50 soldiers" were killed, while two soldiers were killed in another attack between the villages of Surkhakhi and Alkhasty.

     

    "The authorities are carefully trying to hide the mass killing of soldiers in the area of the hotel between the villages of Galashki and Muzhichi," Ingushetia.org said in an updated report.

     

    There was also a third attack on a military column that had come as reinforcement to the road between Surkhakhi and Alkhasty in which at least three soldiers were killed, Ingushetia.org said.

     

    The website is highly critical of local authorities in Ingushetia. Its owner, Magomed Yevloyev, a local opposition leader, was shot dead in a mysterious incident after being taken into police custody in August.

     

    Following Saturday’s attacks, activists from the website said they were cancelling a demonstration to demand an objective inquiry into Yevloyev’s death that had been planned for Sunday in Ingushetia’s main city, Nazran.

     

    Interfax news agency earlier quoted a local spokesman for the Russian defense ministry saying that two soldiers were killed and five were injured and a search was underway in forests near where the attack took place.

     

    "A search of the area is currently taking place, the bandits who carried out the attack on a defense ministry military column are being tracked," the official said, adding that additional forces were being sent to the area.

     

    In what appeared to be a separate incident, a car exploded in the village of Kantyshevo in Ingushetia, killing its driver in what reports quoted officials as saying could be the accidental detonation of a bomb intended for an attack.

     

    Photo: AP

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