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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 05:30 GMT 06:30 UK


World: Europe

Russian media seek out militants

NTV showed images of rebels apparently crossing into Dagestan

Russian television has broadcast film that allegedly shows Chechen militants moving into Dagestan.

The independent television station NTV said it had received an amateur video film from Grozny allegedly showing a Muslim military group entering Dagestan from Chechnya.

Video of poor quality and with no sound showed a group of 300 militants entering a village in the Botlikhskiy District of Dagestan.

The militants were well equipped - each carried a heavy backpack and a machine-gun, while some had ammunition boxes.

Locals looked surprised by what was going on.

The TV said that no official sources either in Moscow or Grozny could confirm the authenticity of the events on video.

Volunteers

The secretary of the Dagestani Security Council, Akhmednabi Magdigadzhiyev, told the RIA-Novosti news agency that the security council was receiving applications from citizens throughout Dagestan wanting to volunteer to liberate the occupied territory in Botlikhskiy District from armed groups.

Mr Magdigadzhiyev did not exclude the possibility of such developments, but stressed that the authorities were in control of the situation and were ready to liberate the occupied villages of Botlikhskiy District by force.

Russia's NTV has also shown pictures of refugees from Botlikhskiy District arriving in the capital of Dagestan, Makhachkala, last night.


[ image: Refugees said the alleged gunmen were led by Shamil Basayev (left)]
Refugees said the alleged gunmen were led by Shamil Basayev (left)
It said that by the morning of 8 August, more than 2,000 local residents had left the mountain villages in the occupied district.

Women and children hiked to the capital. Covered lorries, each carrying up to 50 people, were their main means of transportation, the TV said.

The refugees alleged that their men were being held hostage in the villages occupied by militants. They said that the gunmen were going to establish a Shari'ah republic in Botlikhskiy District and present the district's centre, Botlikh, to Chechen field commander Khattab, according to NTV.

One woman was reported as saying that the refugees believed there were up to 2,000 Chechen gunmen headed by Shamil Basayev.

'Wanted'

Russia's Kommersant newspaper has published the names of the people it says are "seeking to overthrow the constitutional system in the republic" of Dagestan.

It said all of them represent Wahhabism - a strictly conservative movement within Islam, which is growing stronger in Dagestan.

Wahhabites were behind numerous shooting incidents in the North Caucasian republic recently, the newspaper said.

On 5 August, Kommersant reported: "Yesterday's joint session of the Dagestani State Council, government, and People's Assembly gave the names of the people seeking to overthrow the constitutional system in the republic.

"They are Dagestani Wahhabite leader Bagautdin, well-known Wahhabite ideologist Magomed Tagayev and State Duma deputy Nadirshakh Khachilayev.

The newspaper said all three "have been on the wanted list for a long time now".

Bagautdin is wanted "for establishing illegal armed formations; Tagayev for anticonstitutional appeals, and Khachilayev, who has forfeited his deputy's immunity, for organising mass disturbances in Makhachkala", Kommersant said.



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