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Russia: Heavy Fighting Reported In Dagestan

Makhachkala, Dagestan; 8 September 1999 (RFE/RL) - The Russian military says its troops are involved in heavy fighting with Muslim insurgents today around at least six villages in the southern republic of Dagestan. The military press service says Russian ground-attack aircraft, tanks, and artillery are in action at those places, which include Duchi, Shushiva, and Akhar. The press service also said government troops are making progress, and have retaken strategic hills overlooking the Novolakskoye district that were seized by the militants at the weekend. It said that military operations in some areas are being severely hampered by minefields laid by the militants. The Islamists, who have crossed the border intro Dagestan from Chechnya, are led by Chechen warlord Shamil Basaev. Agence France Presse today quoted Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev as saying Russian planes again penetreted Chechen territory overnight, and that four people were killed and nine injured in the latest raids on border areas. Meanwhile, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports the number of people fleeing the fighting has reached 22,000.