Russia: May 30, 2002


The pro-Chechen rebel Kavkaz-Center News Agency reported that rebels under the command of Amir Bilal launched an ambush at 18.00 on 20 May. They struck  a military convoy of 13 trucks and 20 armored vehicles two kilometers away from Serzhen Yurt, which had been heading towards the town of Vedeno after a punitive raid conducted in Avtury village. Chechen fighters detonated at least ten land mines along the convoy's length, then used automatic weapons and grenade launchers. The soldiers were allegedly unable to organize any defense and fled in isolated groups (on foot as well as on armored vehicles) to Serzhen-Yurt and towards Shali. The rebels claim to have destroyed 17 vehicles, killed 90 and wounded over 100 Russians, while losing only 7 killed and 11 wounded themselves. Kavkaz also claimed to have interviewed a wounded Russian survivor, who told them that rebels captured a large amount of weapons and ammunition after the Federal troops fled. After the ambush, Amir Bilal's unit withdrew to the south while helicopter gunships circled the combat area and Russians planes delivered strikes on the adjacent woodlands. The village of Serzhen-Yurt was completely blocked off. 

To date, there have been no reports from the Kremlin addressing the Chechen claim. The only applicable Russian reports concern a group of Interior Ministry servicemen attacked by strangers near the Avtury village in the Shali district on the 19th. Three servicemen were wounded and two attackers killed in the shootout. Troops seized two Kalashnikov assault rifles from the dead rebels, who were being identified. Both sides have made extraordinary claims of damage inflicted during both wars, but the Chechens usually back theirs up with videotape. To date, there has been no video released on this attack. - Adam Geibel


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