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Chechnya: Chechen Forces Launch Rescue-Search For Hostages

Moscow, 16 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Chechen security forces fanned out across the breakaway republic in southern Russia today to try to find five Russian journalists who are being held hostage.

Interfax news agency said Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov launched the sweeping security operation to assert his full control over the region and crack down on crime. The operation involves more than 3,000 men, co-ordinated by the special anti-terrorist service.

Interfax reported that units are stopping and checking cars on the main streets of Grozny, and roads outside the capital. Other units are moving through Chechnya's villages.

Itar-Tass reported that a special unit of 300 men is especially searching for hostages, including three Russian television journalists held for more than a month, and two more abducted last week.