Sunday, September 5, 1999 Published at 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
Russia hit by new Islamic offensive
Rescue workers searched for survivors trapped in the debris
Islamic militants have begun a new offensive in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan, just days after Moscow reported success in driving them out.
But officials with the Russian forces who have been fighting the separatist rebellion since last month, put the rebel forces at no more than 300.
Russian officials have also linked Islamic militants to an explosion on Saturday in an apartment building used by soldiers' families, in which at least 20 people were killed.
Blast destroys flats
At least 20 people were killed and some 70 injured in the explosion in the town of Buinaksk. No group has admitted responsibility for the attack.
"The explosion at Buinaksk and the incursion from Chechnya are links in the same chain," said Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov.
It said a crater was found next to the building, and a car packed with explosives defused in another part of the town.
The incident occurred at 2200 local time (1800 GMT) on Saturday.
Reports said that Russian jets bombed two villages occupied by the rebels near Buinaksk on Sunday.
In recent months, the town has been flooded with Russian troops sent in to crush the separatist Islamic rebellion.
After several weeks of pitched battles and dozens of casualties, Russian forces appear to be gaining the upper hand, but the security situation remains extremely tense.
Moscow Correspondent Andrew Harding says as long as neighbouring Chechnya remains in a state of near anarchy, more turmoil in the region seems almost inevitable.