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    Russia confirms third death in Caucasus troop ambush: official

    AFP
    19.10.2008 - 12:20 | Son Güncelleme:

    A third Russian soldier has died after a troop column was ambushed in the volatile north Caucasus, an official said Sunday, after an unconfirmed report said clashes killed around 50 Russian soldiers.

    The convoy of interior ministry troops came under fire from grenade launchers and automatic weapons on Saturday in the province of Ingushetia, where there has been a growing number of guerrilla attacks on security forces.

     

    "Captain Senatorov, who was heavily injured, died as he was being transported to a military hospital," a spokesman for the main armed forces base in southern Russia told Interfax news agency.

     

    The announcement brought the official death toll among Russian servicemen from the weekend violence to three.

     

    Russian officials have also said eight other federal personnel including police officers and interior ministry soldiers were injured in the ambush and that an armored personnel carrier and two trucks were destroyed.

     

    A website run by opponents of Ingushetias Moscow-backed administration on Saturday, however, quoted an unnamed local interior ministry official and hospital sources saying there were three clashes that killed 50 soldiers.

     

    There was no claim of responsibility for the attack. Russian officials have in the past blamed similar incidents on "foreign" Islamist fighters.

     

    The wide divergence between tolls reported by state-controlled media and opposition outlets highlighted obstacles to obtaining independently-verifiable information in an unstable region the Kremlin works hard to portray as under its full control.

     

    "Casualty figures are always notoriously unclear in Russian reports," Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent security analyst, told AFP, adding "its a possibility" the authorities were covering up the true extent of their losses.

     

    "It’s a serious attack and it shows how unstable the situation is... The numbers are not really that important. It’s a serious attack, a serious ambush. The situation is very tense there now," Felgenhauer said.

     

    If confirmed, the figure of 50 soldiers killed would represent one of the most deadly strikes against Russian forces in the North Caucasus region since the end of major combat operations in Chechnya several years ago.

     

    The ingushetia.org website quoted an official saying that "around 50 soldiers" were killed in an ambush near a spa hotel between the villages of Galashki and Muzhichi close to the regional border with war-ravaged Chechnya.

     

    Hospital sources were also quoted saying that at least two more soldiers died in an attack on a nearby road between the villages of Surkhakhi and Alkhasty, the website said.

     

    And at least three soldiers coming as reinforcements were also killed.

     

    Officials quoted by Russian news agencies only made reference to an ambush on a troop convoy between the villages of Surkhakhi and Alkhasty, without referring to any separate attack on troops between Galashki and Muzhichi.

     

    The ingushetia.org website, though relentlessly critical of the provinces leader, Murat Zyazikov, is seen by independent observers as a useful source of information about Ingushetia not reported by Moscow-run official media.

     

    During the course of two wars in Chechnya between 1994 and 2004, Russian officials and state-run media regularly omitted reporting on serious losses sustained by Russian troops until long after the fact, if ever.


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