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Russia: Planes, Artillery Pound Rebel-Held Village

Botlikh, Dagestan; 19 August 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian war planes and artillery have again attacked Islamic militants in a mountain village in Dagestan. It is the third day of Russian attacks on the village of Tando. An Associated Press reporter who saw the attack early today from the nearby town of Botlikh says the village has been reduced to rubble, but the Islamic militants are fighting back from amid the ruins. The AP report says Tando is important because it is on a mountaintop near the border with Chechnya and controls a rebel supply route. The militants still control at least five villages, including Tando, the Russian Defense Ministry told Interfax.

Russian Deputy Interior Minister Lt. Gen. Igor Zubov said today the Russian forces have lost 40 troops and 160 have been wounded in the 13-day conflict. He said up to 500 rebels had been killed, though the rebels say that figure is exaggerated.

General Zubov said the Russian attacks had forced the militants to divide into small groups and fight Russian troops by using guerrilla tactics.