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The BBC's Jacky Rowland
"No one was allowed in or out of the village as the army carried out its operation"
 real 56k

Expert on Chechen affairs Tom de Waal
"Arbi Barayev was a very prominet Chechen fighter"
 real 28k

Monday, 25 June, 2001, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Russians kill Chechen warlord
Russian soldier
Russian soldiers killed Barayev in a six-day operation
A notorious Chechen warlord has been killed in a Russian military operation against rebels in the breakaway republic.

Arbi Barayev was one of the separatists' most senior guerrilla leaders and was held responsible by Russia for the deaths of hundreds of its troops.

He is also thought to have been behind a series of kidnappings, including the abduction and beheading of three Britons and one New Zealander in 1998.

Russian officials said that 17 other Chechen fighters were killed in the operation against Barayev.

Mythic status

"The Chechen side has officially confirmed, that special Islamic commander Arbi Barayev has become a martyr," the Kavkaz Center internet side announced.

Barayev's body was identified by relatives and his funeral will be held on Monday.

Chechen militants
Militants continue to launch attacks on Russian soldiers
Russian troops blockaded the central Chechen town of Alkhan-Kala in a six-day operation to hunt down Barayev and other rebel fighters.

At least one Russian soldier was killed and several were wounded.

Barayev had been reported killed by the Russian media several times before and had achieved almost mythic status as he re-emerged every time unscathed.

Moscow has hailed his death as a major success and proof that it is winning the war.

But our correspondent says that it is unlikely to weaken Chechen resistance as key leaders remain at large and continue to co-ordinate attacks.

At least 3,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the 21-month war though some estimates say three times that number may have died.

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See also:

22 Jun 01 | Europe
Five killed in Chechnya bombings
19 Jun 01 | Europe
Car bombs rock Chechnya
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