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Bomb Kills One in Chechnya - 2001-09-03

A powerful bomb explosion tore through the main government building in the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya Monday, killing at least one person.

The head of Chechnya's pro-Moscow administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, was meeting with officials on the third floor of the government building when the bomb exploded on the floor below. One woman died in the explosion, and a reporter for the Associated Press said several wounded people were carried away in an ambulance, although it was not clear whether anyone from the Moscow-backed administration was hurt.

When the headquarters building was opened last April, Russian officials hailed it as a sign that the region was returning to normal.

Chechen rebels frequently target officials who have Moscow's support. Mr. Kadyrov has already survived several assassination attempts. Last week, when he turned 50, Russian troops cordoned off Grozny, fearing attacks by Chechen rebels.

On Sunday, Russian media reported that a helicopter crash killed four Russian troops, although it was not known whether the helicopter was shot down by Chechen rebels.

The administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops into Chechnya almost two years ago, in October 1999. At the time, Russian officials said the troops were being sent for two reasons: in response to a series of apartment bombings that the officials blamed on Chechen rebels and to stop incursions by Chechen rebels into the neighboring Russian republic of Dagestan. Since then, despite constant assurances by the Russian government that it has the situation under control, Russian troops, civilians and Chechen rebels die almost daily as fighting continues.

So far there is no sign that Russian President Putin is willing to negotiate an end to the war. Mr. Putin has repeatedly called the Chechen rebels "terrorists" who want to establish an Islamic state.

Prior to this latest campaign, Russian troops fought a bloody war in Chechnya between 1994 and 1996 in which tens of thousands were killed. A treaty to end that round of fighting was signed on August 31, 1996.

In a recent interview with a Russian newspaper to mark the fifth anniversary of the treaty, the leader of the Chechens, Aslan Maskhadov, said Russia would eventually have to come to the negotiating table to put an end to the fighting. But Russian leaders quickly dismissed this idea. Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrezhembsky called the peace treaty that ended the fighting in 1996 an act of treason and said Russia had no plans to negotiate with the rebels now.

Numerous human rights organizations have criticized the Russian military's conduct in Chechnya, saying Russian forces frequently harass and torture unarmed civilians.