April 24, 2009 / 9:49 AM / 11 years ago

Russia in fresh hunt for Chechnya rebels - agencies

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia launched fresh counter-terrorist operations in at least three districts of Chechnya on Friday just over a week after it ended a similar mission across the whole region, news agencies reported.

Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, last week declared victory in a war against rebels after the Kremlin lifted security restrictions.

Russia ordered soldiers into Chechnya in 1999 to end the mainly Muslim region’s de facto independence won in a 1994-96 war. It also wanted to stop independence movements spreading and to halt the threat from Islamist militants.

But on Friday, Russian commanders re-introduced security restrictions associated with counter-terrorist operations in areas near the Caucasus mountains.

“Militants are intensifying their activities in the Shali, Shatoy and Vedeno districts of the republic,” Interfax news agency quoted an official report as saying.

“We have received information on terrorist attacks planned against executive authorities and law enforcement officials.”

Officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Russian news agencies have reported sporadic fighting since the counter-terrorist operation ended and this week gunmen killed three Russian soldiers.

Security in Chechnya has improved under Kadyrov but violence has escalated in Chechnya’s neighbours and analysts warn violence and poverty have made these regions fertile recruitment areas for militants and rebels.

News agencies quoted officials as saying forces had killed two rebel leaders, one in Dagestan to the east of Chechnya and one in Kabardino-Balkaria at the centre of the region.

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