Monday, September 20, 1999 Published at 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Warlord's warning to Russia
Dagestani villagers return to their homes after militants are driven out
Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev has warned Russia to stop air raids in the breakaway republic - or face attacks from a newly-recruited suicide squad.
Moscow says four rebel bases connected to insurgency in neighbouring Dagestan had been wiped out in the raids.
Now Shamil Basayev is quoted by the French news agency as saying that his suicide battalion "would make a name for itself" if the attacks did not stop.
Basayev - who Russian blames for the rebel incursions - said he had recruited 400 volunteers "ready to die for their faith" but refused to give further details or possible targets.
A local journalist has told the BBC that 20,000 people have fled their homes in the past two weeks and volunteers are mobilising in preparation for a Russian invasion.
Moscow says it has deployed tens of thousands of troops in its campaign against Islamic militants who have made two incursions into Dagestan since August.
A senior general has refused to rule out using ground troops against rebels.
First Deputy Chief of the General Staff General Valery Manilov said: "We do not have the right to rule (out) any method of intervention to destroy terrorist units, their bases or their means of existence."
Earlier, Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said international Islamic forces in pursuit of mineral resources in the Caucasus were to blame for the fighting in Dagestan.
"An idea emerged to use Chechnya as some kind of virtual Caucasian dagger to slice Russia like a piece of butter," he said.
Islamists wanted to set up "a theocratic state" in Chechnya and some other republics which would stretch from the Caspian to the Black Sea.
Moscow is currently attempting to seal the border of Chechnya. Russian television said a large number of armoured vehicles and artillery pieces had been sent to the region.
The military action follows steps taken to beef up security inside Russia following a series of bombings in which more than 300 people were killed.
Russian security forces have been maintaining a high profile on the streets of Moscow and are carrying out identity checks, apparently concentrating on people whose appearance suggests Caucasian origins.
Moscow blames the rebels for the blasts, an accusation denied by the Chechen authorities.