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Russia: Interior Minister Arrives In Dagestan

Makhachkala, 3 September 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo flew to Dagestan's capital, Makhachkala, to supervise military operations underway in the southern republic. Rushailo's arrival comes as Russian forces are trying to dislodge Islamic rebels from the village of Chabanmakhi and the hills around the village of Karamakhi. Bad weather has limited the use of Russian aircraft and artillery. Federal troops are reported to be searching the hills on foot for the rebels. The Interior Ministry reports that since fighting began in central Dagestan on Sunday, 26 Russian troops have been killed and more than 150 injured. Rebel losses are reported to be more than 100. None of the figures can be confirmed. Fighting between Russian forces and Islamic militants led by Chechen warlord Shamil Basaev began last month when a large group of rebels crossed into western Dagestan from Chechnya. Russian forces and local militias chased the rebels out after two weeks of heavy fighting. According to Russia's NTV television, an unknown number of Russian troops are now fighting about 300 rebels who took up positions in central Dagestan last year and imposed Islamic law in mountain villages, as well as about 200 others who fled to the area from battle zones in western Dagestan.