Chechen Gunmen Take Four Hostages in Deadly Raid in Russia

Gunmen from breakaway Chechnya (searchraided a remote mountain village in neighboring Dagestan on Monday, killing at least nine border guards and escaping with four hostages, officials said.

At least 25 gunmen ambushed an outpost near the border between war-ravaged Chechnya and Dagestan (search) and Russia's frontier with Georgia.

The gunmen opened fire at the checkpoint from a car and then quickly turned back, said Anzhela Martirosova, spokeswoman for the Dagestani branch of Russia's Interior Ministry. When the border guards rushed to pursue the car, militants fired from the roadside, killing an officer and eight troops, Martirosova said.

Initial reports said 10 people were wounded but officials later said that was not true.

The gunmen then entered the village of Shauri (search) and fired shots in the air to frighten residents. They took four hostages, all men, and headed toward the border with Georgia about six miles to the south, Martirosova said.

Dagestani police tried to chase the gunmen but lost track of them in rugged terrain, Martirosova said. The Russian military dispatched combat helicopters, but bad weather hampered the search and it was called off as darkness fell.

Homicide bombings and other attacks have killed more than 275 people in and around Chechnya and in Moscow in the past year. The Kremlin has blamed most on Chechen rebels.

Ramazan Mamedov, a representative of the Dagestani regional government in Moscow, said Monday's raid was apparently meant as another show of rebel strength. "It was intended to scare the leadership of our republic and the population," Mamedov told Echo of Moscow radio.

The attack prompted fears of a repeat of previous incursions by Chechen rebels into Dagestan, including a January 1996 hostage-taking raid on the town of Kizlyar that killed about 78 people and helped the rebels win de-facto independence later that year.

Russian troops rolled back into Chechnya in September 1999 after Chechen rebels attacked villages in western Dagestan and after the Kremlin blamed militants for apartment bombings that killed some 300 people in Moscow and other Russian cities.

Russian troops in Chechnya continue to suffer daily losses in rebel attacks and land-mine explosions. At least 10 federal soldiers were killed and another 24 wounded in clashes with the rebels since Sunday, an official with the Kremlin-backed civilian administration for Chechnya said Monday on condition of anonymity.