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Moscow correspondent Rob Parsons: "A relentless Russian barrage"
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The BBC's Robert Parsons: "Time may prove to be on the rebels' side."
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BBC Regional Analyst Tom de Waal reports on the conflict
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Thursday, 26 August, 1999, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Russia 'reclaims' Dagestan villages
Russian troops in Dagestan
Russian troops say they have killed half the 2,000 rebels
Russian troops have taken back all the villages occupied by Islamist rebels in the southern republic of Dagestan, according to the country's defence minister.

Igor Sergeyev said the worst of the security crisis, which began 18 days ago, was now over and the conflict in its final stage.

"The situation is a lot better than it was three days ago," he said.

"The troops succeeded in freeing up all of the villages seized by the bandits. Now we are clearing away the mines, are searching for the gunmen and strengthening the territory."

Rebels 'crushed'

Mr Sergeyev's remarks appear to confirm an earlier statement from the interior ministry that the rebels had been completely crushed.

A Russian military commander in the area said half of the 2,000 fighters who had occupied the mountain villages were dead.

It was reported on Monday that the rebel leader, Shamil Basayev, a veteran of Russia's humiliating war with Chechnya, had ordered his men to retreat.

Battle for the Caucasus
  • Chechnya: Round two?
  • Battle for the Caucasus
  • Cat-and-mouse conflict
  • Islamic roots in Dagestan
  • Russia's demoralised army
  • Correspondents say it appears they have either slipped back into neighbouring Chechnya or moved elsewhere in Dagestan.

    However, the rebels have said they will continue fighting to create an independent Muslim state in Dagestan.

    Mr Sergeyev said that raised the possibility of guerrilla warfare.

    "There is a danger that in moving to partisan actions they will try to carry out terrorist acts in the region," he said.

    Putin keeps promise

    The rebellion posed the worst threat to Russian security in the region since the end of the Chechen war in 1996.

    But the BBC's correspondent in Moscow says the Russian response seems to be a qualified victory for the new Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, who had vowed to quash the rebellion within two weeks.

    The Chechen-led rebels, members of the Muslim fundamentalist Wahhabi sect, had proclaimed Dagestan independent of Russia.

    They were seeking to install Sharia (Islamic law) and had declared a holy war on Russia.

    The fighting caused an estimated 10,000 refugees to flee towards the Caspian Sea coast.

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    See also:

    17 Mar 00 | Europe
    The Dagestan connection
    11 Aug 99 | Monitoring
    Dagestan rebels call in Chechen warlord
    19 Aug 99 | Europe
    Russia bombards rebel village
    23 Aug 99 | Europe
    Russia ups the firepower
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