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6 Soldiers Die in Convoy Ambush

Unidentified gunmen ambushed a Russian military convoy traveling near the border with Chechnya, killing six soldiers and wounding seven, the military said Friday. The convoy came under automatic gunfire Thursday evening near the village of Alkhasty, in the republic of Ingushetia, a duty officer at the North Caucasus military command center said. The band of approximately 30 gunmen slipped back into the woods after the attack.

The attack came on a day of heavy rebel activity. On Thursday, the military command center said rebels shot down a military helicopter in southern Chechnya with a shoulder-fired missile, killing the pilot. But Friday, military officials denied that the Mi-8 helicopter had been shot down, saying it crashed during poor weather and strong winds.

Two of the crew were evacuated from the mountainous region, a rebel stronghold, and hospitalized in serious condition. Initial reports had said all three crew members were killed in the crash.

Meanwhile, early Friday morning, a military unit based in Goragorsky in the Nadterechny region of northern Chechnya, usually a relatively peaceful area, clashed with a band of rebels, residents said.

The fighting lasted until daybreak and left one soldier injured and damaged several village homes. The rebels slipped away.

(The Moscow Times 11.viii.03)

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