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Separatist Chechen chief killed, Russia says

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 26, 2002

MOSCOW -- Russia said Thursday its special forces had killed one of the country's most wanted men, an Arab-born commander of Chechen guerrillas whom the Kremlin suspects of having links to the al-Qaida network.

Russia's Federal Security Service said it would soon provide documentary proof of the March death of the guerrilla leader known as Khatab, an Islamic mercenary who Moscow says has received millions from Osama bin Laden to finance and train Muslim separatists in Chechnya and carry out attacks against Russians. But a rebel spokesman denied Khatab had been killed.

Khatab's death would be a significant victory for the Kremlin, which has until now has failed to stem the rebellion in Chechnya more than two years after its troops retook control of the Caucasus region. Some rebel commanders have been captured or killed, but the top leaders remain at large and Russian troops continue to die each day in hit-and-run attacks by the guerrillas.

Russia blames Khatab for masterminding kidnappings-for-ransom in which thousands of people were taken hostage in the region during Chechnya's de facto independence from 1996-1999, and for leading a bloody incursion into the neighboring Russian region of Dagestan in 1999.

Bomb kills 12 women in mosque in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A bomb ripped through a Shiite Muslim mosque in Pakistan's eastern Punjab province, killing 12 worshippers, all women, and wounding several others, hospital officials said today.

It was not known who planted the powerful device in Bukker, about 300 miles southwest of the federal capital of Islamabad, but Pakistan, and eastern Punjab province in particular, has been wracked by religiously motivated violence.

Hundreds of people have been killed in attacks by rival radical elements belonging to the Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam.

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