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Russians Expand Chechen Counterterror Effort

GROZNY -- Russian authorities have expanded federal counterterrorism operations in Chechnya in three districts of the war-battered republic, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported, hinting at an escalating clampdown just weeks after the official close of a decade-long, republic-wide counterterrorism campaign.

The head of a local press arm of federal forces in Chechnya, Vladimir Patrin, told journalists on April 24 that Chechen rebels were planning terrorist acts in the districts of Shali, Shatoy, and Vedeno.

"We have received information about gang leaders planning terrorist attacks against government and law-enforcement officials," Patrin said. "The [federal] operational headquarters [in] the Chechen Republic decided to launch a counterterrorism operation in the mountainous part of the Shali district -- excluding the towns of Chiri-Yurt, Novye Atagi, Shali, Serzhen-Yurt -- and throughout the Shatoi and Vedeno districts of the Chechen Republic."

The latest measures follow the announcement on April 21 of rigorous inspections aimed at capturing hundreds of rebel fighters.

Patrin also cited an increase in the number of rebel hiding places and weapons caches uncovered in remote Chechen areas, saying security forces had found 10 bases and six hideouts in the past month.

Moscow-backed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said on April 21 that the situation in the republic had stabilized, but army commanders subsequently said rebels had become more active.

Reuters quoted news agencies saying officials claimed forces had killed two rebel leaders, one in Daghestan to the east of Chechnya and one in Kabardino-Balkaria at the center of the region.