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Russia: Moscow Claims Success In Dagestan

Moscow/Makhachkala, 24 August 1999 (RFE/RL) - An offensive today by Russian troops in Dagestan appears to have forced Islamic rebels from some of the villages they have occupied since early August. Russian troops are launching attacks on the last two villages reportedly held by the rebels -- Ansalta and Shodroda -- near the border with Chechnya. Dagestan's Security Council Secretary Akhmednabi Magdigadzhiev told reporters earlier today that Russia troops had already captured the villages of Tando, Rakhata and Ashino. Tando is reportedly leveled from two weeks of air and artillery strikes by Russian forces. Chechen warlord Shamil Basaev -- who is commanding the rebels in Dagestan -- seemed to confirm the loss of Tando today, saying the village does not have much strategic importance. The rebels are trying to establish an independent Islamic state.

Russian General Vladimir Kazantsev -- who is in charge of Russian forces in the Caucasus -- said more than 1,000 rebels have been killed since fighting started on August 7. He said 47 Russian Defense Ministry troops and 12 policemen based in Dagestan have been killed. None of the figures can be independently confirmed.