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DATE=9/4/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / DAGESTAN / S-L NUMBER=2-253454 BYLINE=EVE CONANT DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: Re-issuing with correct number INTRO: Russia's Defense Ministry has assumed full control from the Interior Ministry over military operations against Islamic militants in Dagestan (in Russia's southern Caucasus region). Moscow correspondent Eve Conant reports military activity has been stepped up as federal forces try to rout the militants from the mountainous area called Karamakhi. TEXT: Although there's been a change of command, Russian helicopter gunships and artillery continue to pound several villages in central Dagestan. On Saturday Russia's Defense Ministry was granted full control over the conflict, taking over from Interior Ministry troops who fought the militants in other parts of Dagestan last month. Russian news agencies report Lieutenant-General Gennady Troshev has been appointed as commander of the unified forces. The Defense Ministry says it is taking over the Interior Ministry in order to "increase the effectiveness" of the campaign against the militants, who are well armed and entrenched in strong underground shelters. Previous Russian forces included army ground troops, local police forces, Interior Ministry troops and volunteers with little or no training. //REST OPT FOR LONG// Dagestani journalist Nabi Abdulayev, who spoke to V-O- A by telephone, says Dagestan's government is also planning to evacuate all women and children from the Karamakhi area where the fighting is taking place. The militants are said to be members of the fundamentalist Wahhabi sect who took control of the villages a year ago and introduced strict Islamic law to the area. In a related incident, an extremist leader known as Commander Khattab has warned that his Islamic extremists will carry out reprisals on Russian territory in response to the offensive against the militants in Dagestan.(Signed) NEB/EC/DW/JO 04-Sep-1999 08:29 AM EDT (04-Sep-1999 1229 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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