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Tuesday, September 7, 1999 Published at 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK

World: Europe

Yeltsin attacks 'careless' army

Russian soldiers are up against well-armed, mobile opponents

President Yeltsin has strongly criticised the Russian military for failing to prevent attacks by Islamic guerrillas in the southern republic of Dagestan.

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg reports: "Boris Yeltsin and his generals will have to act quickly"
Mr Yeltsin said that only carelessness by the military could explain why the guerrillas had been able to capture a whole district in Dagestan and carry out a bomb attack on a military compound, killing more than 60 people.

Muslim state

The killings came as the guerillas launched a fresh offensive over the weekend from neighbouring Chechnya, after Russian troops thought they had suppressed the uprising.

The guerillas are hoping to establish a Muslim state in the multi-ethnic North Caucasus region.

Battle for the Caucasus
  • Chechnya: Round two?
  • Battle for the Caucasus
  • Cat-and-mouse conflict
  • Islamic roots in Dagestan
  • Russia's demoralised army
  • Mr Yeltsin asked: "How is it that in a closed military area more terrorist acts occur than in other cities?" That can only be explained by carelessness by the military."

    He vowed "adequate measures" to confront the Islamic militants, who he has said endanger Russia's territorial integrity.


    Interior ministry officials estimate that in the latest incursion around 1,000 Muslem rebels crossed into the Novolakski region of western Dagestan.

    Officials are still counting the dead from the blast at Buynaksk, but the toll had risen to 61, including 21 children, by early Tuesday.

    Dagestani officials said 2,000 refugees had fled the war zone.

    [ image: Russia blames rebels for the car bomb in Buynaksk]
    Russia blames rebels for the car bomb in Buynaksk
    It is the second assault by Islamic gunmen from Chechnya in just over a month.

    Both assaults are thought to have been led by experienced commanders such as Shamil Basayev, who helped mastermind Russia's defeat in the 1994-96 Chechnya war.

    Russian casualties

    Russia said on Monday that 49 troops and police had died and 230 had been wounded in the fighting in Dagestan in the past few days.

    Scenes from the latest fighting
    Correspondents say the rebels are heavily outnumbered - but they are also highly mobile and well-armed.

    Chechnya, where Islamists have taken effective control of the government, has provided a base for the rebels, who last month attempted to declare an Islamic republic in part of Dagestan.

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