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RUSSIA: Chechnya

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the military on Sunday of lax security that allowed a Chechen suicide bomber to kill at least 50 people and destroy a military hospital with an explosives-packed truck. Russian officials blamed Chechen rebels for Friday's attack on the hospital in the town of Mozdok in North Ossetia, near Chechnya. The Emergency Ministry said the blast killed mostly soldiers and medical workers. Mozdok has a big military base that Russia uses as a major staging point for operations in Chechnya. Many Russian troops who were injured in the rebel republic were sent for treatment at the hospital. Russian news agencies said police had detained two people who sold the truck used in the attack. Putin vowed that the blast, one of several deadly attacks in recent months, would not derail his plan to declare the war in Chechnya over, the centerpiece of which is an election in October to choose a Chechen president. Even though all but the most extreme separatists have denounced the use of suicide attackers, suicide bombings have increased in the last few months. In Chechnya, Kremlin appointed administrator Akhmad Kadyrov formally announced his candidacy. The election is designed to give Chechnya its first elected leader since Aslan Maskhadov, who was elected in 1997 during a period of de facto independence, but was driven out by Russian forces when they reoccupied the province. (Reuters,8/5/03)

Ronald Hilton - 8/9/03