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Over 600 militants surrender in amnesty offer

RIA Novosti

23/01/2007 16:37 ROSTOV-ON-DON, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - Over 600 militants have surrendered since an amnesty was declared in Russia last year, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.

A partial amnesty for militants and servicemen not involved in major atrocities during Russia's antiterrorism campaign in the North Caucasus was announced by Russian authorities July 15, 2006, following the killing of the region's most sought after terrorist, Shamil Basayev.

Colonel General Arkady Yedelev, a deputy interior minister, told a news conference that 554 of those who had surrendered gave themselves up in the Republic of Chechnya. "That is one of the brightest examples of positive work in the last year," he said.

Yedelev hailed the work of various non-government organizations, public institutions and councils of elders, which had distributed some 300,000 flyers announcing the amnesty around the North Caucasus republics.

The amnesty was initially set to last until August 1, 2006, but the deadline was eventually extended until January 15, 2007. Proposed by President Vladimir Putin, the amnesty was part of the Kremlin's offer of fair treatment for militants who agreed to lay down their arms.

However, it did not extend to those guilty of grave crimes, including hostage-taking and terrorist attacks, or foreigners and stateless persons.

The official also said the number of grave crimes had declined and that terrorists acts had decreased by 50%. "However, the problem still exists, because 101 out of 112 terrorist acts in Russia were perpetrated in the Southern Federal District," he said.

Although the active phase of the North Caucasus antiterrorism campaign officially ended in 2001, periodic bombings and clashes between gunmen and federal troops still disrupt Chechnya and nearby regions, including Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachayevo-Circassia.

The commander of Russia's Joint Forces in the North Caucasus, Colonel General Yevgeny Baryayev, earlier said about 700 gunmen continued to operate in Chechnya and neighboring regions.

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