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DATE=8/21/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / DAGESTAN (L-O) NUMBER=2-252982 BYLINE=GUY CHAZAN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Fighting continues in southern Russia, where government troops are battling Muslim insurgents holding a cluster of mountain villages in Dagestan. The Russian military command claims its forces have killed up to 100 rebels in just one day of fighting. Guy Chazan reports from Moscow: TEXT: Russian Defense Ministry bulletins continue to claim headway is being made against the rebels. But, so far, there is little evidence of that on the ground. The insurgents -- adherents of the radical Wahhabi Islamic sect -- continue to hold six villages, close to the border with Chechnya. Despite a relentless bombardment by Russian aircraft and heavy artillery, the rebels have yielded little ground. Moscow says 100 militants were killed in a single day of fighting, but there has been no independent verification. Most military analysts in Moscow think reports of rebel losses are greatly exaggerated. The defense ministry says its forces have destroyed rebel ammunition dumps and knocked out a number of vehicles bringing reinforcements and supplies. However, it is clear the tide in the fighting will only turn once government troops capture the strategic heights around the small mountain-top village, Tondo. Tondo controls a crucial mountain pass through which the rebels are bringing in men and material from Chechnya. So far, all attempts to take the village have failed. A ground assault, earlier this week, left Russia with heavy casualties. Russia has tremendous superiority in firepower and has thousands of troops and plenty of heavy weaponry in Dagestan. But the rebels -- many of them veterans of the Chechen War -- are determined and well-trained fighters who are experts at digging in and holding their positions. (signed) NEB/gc/dw / wd 21-Aug-1999 07:25 AM LOC (21-Aug-1999 1125 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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