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Tuesday, 31 July, 2001, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
History of hijackings in Chechen conflict
Chechen rebels
Chechen rebels have conducted several hijackings
The hijacking of the bus in southern Russia is not the first time that the Chechen rebels' fight for independence has spilled over the breakaway republic's borders.

Chechen separatists have carried out frequent hijackings, kidnappings and raids since 1990, when the Soviet Union was showing signs of crumbling. Turkey has frequently found itself at the centre of these operations.

Moscow has often accused Turkey of supporting the rebels by providing financial and material aid. The Turkish government insists there is no official support for the rebels' campaign.

Russian troops in Chechnya
The Russian army has been fighting Chechen rebels for several years
The overwhelming majority of Turks and Chechens are Muslims, and more than 20,000 Chechens live in Turkey. Many rebels have been treated in Turkish hospitals after fighting the Russians.

In 1990, a Tu-154 aircraft was forced to land in Turkey after taking off from the Chechen capital, Grozny.

Two similar hijackings took place the following year, with hijackers demanding to be re-routed to Turkey.

On 11 December 1994, the Russians marched into Chechnya.

As the war raged on in the Caucasus, pro-Chechen gunmen hijacked a passenger ferry off Turkey's Black Sea coast.

The hijackers, two Chechens, six Turks and a Georgian, held more than 200 passengers, most of the Russian, hostage for four days to protest against Moscow's military campaign in Chechnya.

A Turkish court sentenced them to eight years in prison. But all the hijackers escaped amid suspicion of collusion by the authorities.

Last year, a Chechen man hijacked a plane that had taken off from the capital of Dagestan, Makhachkala, on its way to Moscow. The plane landed at a military airport in Israel and all the passengers were freed unharmed.

Observers say hijackings are a relatively frequent occurrence in the Caucasus region and Russia. Most end when the Russian security services seize the hijackers.


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