Report: 13 Russian Soldiers Killed in Battles with Insurgents in Caucasus

Thirteen Russian troops have been killed and at least 17 others wounded in five days of clashes with Islamic insurgents in the snowy mountains covering restive Chechnya and Dagestan, a report said Friday.

The North Caucasus standoff first erupted on Monday and resumed again on Friday morning after an overnight lull, Interfax quoted an unnamed Russian security source as saying.

The fighting on Thursday broke out when Russian interior ministry forces met resistance from three separate groups of militants hiding in the heavily forested hills, the source said.

"Five policemen died in Thursday's heated exchange," said the source.

The rebels' website confirmed the toll and said Russian forces -- comprising federal interior ministry troops and policemen from Dagestan and Chechnya -- were also using aviation forces.

Russian reports said the clash initially broke out near Chechnya's eastern border with Dagestan, a larger Muslim region that has been the center of North Caucasus unrest in recent years.

Chechnya is currently ruled by Ramzan Kadyrov, a former rebel turned Moscow supporter whose crackdown on militants has been accompanied by widespread allegations of rights abuses.

But the republic has remained largely peaceful since waging two post-Soviet wars against federal forces that claimed tens of thousands of lives and saw hundreds of thousands flee the ravaged Chechen capital Grozny.

Source: Agence France Presse

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