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Chechen Leader Says Rebel Chief Badly Wounded

Umarov in a screen shot from a video sent to RFE/RL

Umarov in a screen shot from a video sent to RFE/RL

GROZNY, Russia (Reuters) -- Chechnya's most wanted separatist leader has been severely wounded in a special operation that killed four of his fighters, pro-Kremlin Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said on June 8.

But Kadyrov said it was too early to say whether rebel chief Doku Umarov was dead, as reported by a Russian news agency.

Russia has fought two wars in Chechnya against Muslim rebels since 1994 and the killing of the separatist leader would help the Kremlin to argue that it has pacified the unruly region.

Kadyrov said the operation against Umarov was commanded by one of his presidential advisers, Adam Delimkhanov, who is wanted by Dubai in connection with the assassination of a former Chechen military commander there.

"We have information that Doku Umarov was badly wounded as part of a special operation conducted by Adam Delimkhanov," Kadyrov said, according to his spokesman. "The bodies of four rebels were found at the scene," Kadyrov said.

Interfax news agency earlier cited an unidentified source in Russia's law enforcement agencies as saying that Umarov had been killed in a special operation "on the territory of one of the republics in the North Caucasus," referring to the volatile region of southern Russia which includes Chechnya.

"Tests are being made on the remains to make a final identification," the news agency cited the source as saying.

A source in the local Interior Ministry said he had no information about Umarov's death.

Kadyrov has repeatedly said that Umarov, who has styled himself as leader of a "Caucasus Emirate," should be killed for trying to keep alive the separatist movement. He took charge of it in 2006 after its previous leader, Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev, was killed in a battle with Russian troops.