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Caucasus/Russia/Central Asia
Thousands of Russian troops hunting down Basayev
Thousands of police are searching Chechnya's southern mountains for an elusive rebel warlord who has been involved in deadly attacks during more than a decade of war in the southern Russian region, its prime minister said Friday.

In comments on state-run Rossiya television, Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov said he was "100 percent" certain that the warlord Shamil Basayev was in the mountains of southeastern Chechnya. Rossiya showed footage of elite police forces crouching on mountainsides.

The search operation came days after Chechnya's parliament unanimously approved Kadyrov, the head of a shadowy security force widely alleged to commit abductions and abuse of civilians, as Chechnya's prime minister.

The capture and killing of Basayev would be a major victory for Kadyrov, who has strong backing from President Vladimir Putin and is the son of the region's first Moscow-backed president, Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated by a bomb blast in 2004.

The death of the former separatist president Aslan Maskhadov last year, in what authorities say was an operation by security forces, left Basayev as by far the best-known rebel leader alive.
Posted by:Dan Darling