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Chechen militants have lost their leaders - interior minister

RIA Novosti

21/08/2006 17:34 MOSCOW, August 21 (RIA Novosti) - Thanks to the work of law enforcement agencies in Chechnya, the republic's militants have lost almost all of their leaders, the Russian interior minister said Monday.

Following the killing of terrorist Shamil Basayev in July, Russia offered militants the chance to surrender to authorities, guaranteeing them a fair hearing.

Rashid Nurgaliyev, speaking at a ceremony to decorate Interior Ministry servicemen and staff involved in successful anti-terrorist operations in the North Caucasus, said: "As a result of the systematic work of law enforcement agencies, the existing militant network in Chechnya has lost almost all of its leaders."

Over the past three years, 136 heads of militant groups and 24 members of foreign terrorist organizations have been killed, the minister said.

"One hundred leaders of extremist organizations have been arrested. This year, 226 people have given up illegal activities, of which 14 were militant group leaders," he said.

Along with Basayev, who claimed responsibility for the Beslan school siege and other atrocities, over the past two years Russian forces also killed Aslan Maskhadov, involved in the Moscow theater siege, and his successor Abdul Khalim Saidullayev.

Doku Umarov is the only prominent militant leader yet to be caught by Russian forces. Umarov is believed to have been involved in the killings of 30 police officers and servicemen, and in 2004 was in the Basayev-led group that raided Ingushetia.

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