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Subject: Igor Shifrin, head of Russian military construction killed, Chechen transport minister abducted

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Date Posted: November 16, 2002 1:05:56 EDT

A high-ranking Russian officer was killed and a top Chechen official abducted at gunpoint in new fighting in the southern Russian republic, an official said Saturday.

Unidentified attackers opened fire on a vehicle carrying Lt. Gen. Igor Shifrin, the head of Russian military construction, in the Chechen capital Grozny on Friday night. Shifrin was killed and his driver was wounded, said an official in the Moscow-backed administration in Chechnya.

In a separate incident, a group of masked gunmen stopped a car carrying Chechen transport minister Said Ali Ediyev and two of his aides, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The gunmen tied up Ediyev and the other passengers, threw hoods over their heads, and sped off. After a short distance, the minister and one of his aides were thrown out of the car, while the other aide was taken away, the official said.

Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudayev called the abduction part of a series of provocations against officials in the Moscow-backed government in Chechnya, the Interfax news agency reported.

Rebels often target Chechen officials and police, whom they consider traitors. Chechen officials and Russian forces have also been accused of kidnappings and killings as well.

Over the past 24 hours in Chechnya, at least nine Russian servicemen were killed and five others wounded in rebel attacks and clashes, the official in the Moscow-backed administration said. At the same time, Russian troops detained more than 200 Chechens on suspicion of rebel activity, the official said.

The Chechen conflict long ago settled into a pattern of hit-and-run attacks by rebels and "clean-up operations" by Russian troops. Human rights groups have harshly criticized the Russian tactics, saying they lead to abuses against civilians, including illegal detentions, rapes and killings.

Russian troops pulled out of Chechnya in 1996 after a disastrous two-year war against the rebels, but returned in 1999 following a series of apartment house bombings that were blamed on Chechen militants and a rebel incursion into neighboring Dagestan.

After the seizure of a Moscow theater last month by Chechen rebels, Russian officials have promised new "special operations" throughout the republic to root out rebels.

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