Abkhaz acting Defense Minister Givi Agrba also claimed that Abkhazia did not trust Georgia's reports that they had completed the withdrawal of their military units from the Kodori Gorge and wanted this action closely monitored by Russian peacekeepers and UN military observers.
The day before, an Azerbaijan military court began hearing evidence against seven young people arrested earlier this year who stand accused of participating in illegal armed units and receiving military training at a secret camp in neighboring Georgia's tense Pankisi Gorge. The defendants are also charged with helping with the financing, training and hiring of illegal units intended to be used in military conflicts.
The Kremlin has alleged that Chechen fighters were hiding among 7,000 Chechen refugees in Georgia. The Russians assert that the rebels use the gorge as a transit route to send men, money and equipment into Chechnya. - Adam Geibel
Recent events in Chechnya indicate that the rebels have launched a minor offensive with Command Detonated Mines.
The rebels executed the most deadly single attack on pro-Russian forces in the North Caucasus since July 2000, only hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual State of the Nation address to both houses of parliament in Moscow. Putin devoted a mere minute to Chechnya, simply saying that the military part of the war was over.
The Russians initially reported on 18 April that ten to 13 elite police officers died and anther 8 were wounded in Grozny's center when their truck hit a landmine.
Ten Chechen police officers were killed when a mine exploded under their vehicle in Grozny's Staropromyslovsky district around 10:00 (0600 GMT) or 10:20 Moscow time. The stalled convoy was apparently sprayed with gunfire. Another six died in a second blast triggered as they rushed to help. Two other OMON members were seriously wounded in the blasts. Later reports said a 17th died in hospital and five others were wounded.
The Russians immediately dispatched a team of bomb disposal experts to the scene amid reports that the rebels had planted two additional contact mines in the vicinity. Interfax-AVN reported that the Leninsky district military commandant's office engineer reconnaissance mission was the target of the attack. Right after the second landmine exploded, rebels opened fire at the sappers.
The fight near the Severny market (not far from the government compound) lasted for about 15 minutes. In a skirmish following the explosion, one of the perpetrators was wounded and detained, while law enforcement agents also detained four people "justifiably suspected of involvement in the incident".
The attack occurred within 200 meters of the Russian Interior Ministry's Grozny headquarters. Federal units cordoned off the city center, with all civilian vehicle movement banned.
The day before, Federal units had carried out six special operations in the Sunzha, Urus-Martan, Shali and Shelkovskaya districts of Chechnya, during which four rebels were killed and 15 suspects detained. Federals engaged in the search activities found 13 arms and ammo caches, confiscated 20 small-arms, 18 artillery shells, 54 mortar shells, 11 grenade launchers, 202 grenades, 16.4kg of explosives and over 58,200 small-arms cartridges.
However, Interfax reported that six Russian troops died and 11 were wounded in two separate mine attacks in the south and that Russian forces mortared the mountain village of Gorgachi in apparent reprisal for one of the attacks.
A federal convoy of two Ural trucks and an armored recovery vehicle (often used for road clearance when fitted with KMT rollers) was attacked 200 meters from the village of Noviye Atagi. The district military commandant's office convoy was on an engineer intelligence mission and found a landmine on a roadside. When the federals tried to defuse it, the rebels blasted another landmine planted nearby and under the bottom of the prime mover. The explosion killed six servicemen on the spot, while another seven were wounded and taken to the hospital.
Four more servicemen were wounded when their armored recovery vehicle hit another homemade landmine in the mountainous Shatoi district, 100 meters from the village of Gorgachi. Three policemen were wounded in Grozny's Leninsky district, when their vehicle hit a homemade mine. Two Chechens trying to plant a homemade explosive device a the road in Grozny's Staropromyslovsky district were discovered and when they offered armed resistance to federal troops, were killed. A Kalashnikov assault rifle and fragments of the exploded bomb were seized from the scene of the incident.
Rebel Radio Kavkaz also reported that two armored personnel carriers were blown up on a land mine in Kurchaloyevskiy District, killing four Russians (This was not mentioned by the Russian press).
Three more homemade explosive devices were found and defused on possible military convoy routes in various districts. One homemade explosive device was found 50 meters from a bridge across the Sunzha River in the Leninsky district of Grozny. The rebel mines appear to be cruder than previous creations; the bridge bomb was made of a 400g TNT charge, a grenade fuse and a tin can full of nails and bolts.
Command detonated mines (CDM) obviously remain the best weapon for small groups of guerillas to carry out an attack far beyond their conventional capabilities. As this event illustrates, the prefered method is to execute an initial attack with one CDM followed by a short burst of direct fire and then blow a second CDM when the targets respond to the first blast. Conventional contact mines at the perimeter of the kill zone will create additional casualties and further shake the moral of the targets. - Adam Geibel
Abkhaz Vice-President Valery Arshba told the Russian press on 16 April that Georgian military units were still deployed in the upper parts of Abkhazia's Kodori Gorge. He also claimed that international terrorists who entered Abkhazia in the autumn 2001 as part of Chechen rebel leader Ruslan Gelayev's group were still in the Kodori Gorge.