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Russia: Jets Attack Militants In Chechnya, Dagestan

Makhachkala, Russia; 20 August 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russia's Defense Ministry says fighter jets today attacked Islamic rebel units inside the breakaway republic of Chechnya, while continuing to raid villages held by Islamic militants in neighboring Dagestan. An unnamed Defense Ministry spokesman said the raids near the Chechen villages of Kenkhi and Benoi targeted some 400 rebels who planned to enter Dagestan, where insurgents have been battling for two weeks to establish a separate Islamic state. Interfax says Chechen officials today declared a state of emergency in response to Russia's attacks. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today said political means should be used to resolve Moscow's ongoing conflict with Chechnya, but he added that Russia will confront any challenges from terrorists in the area. Chechnya signed a truce in 1996 with Russia after a two-year war for independence. Also today, Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said 35 troops have died in Dagestan since the fighting began. The Defense Ministry says four Russian police officers were wounded and several militants were killed in today's clashes.