Thirty-seven militants were detained overnight in Ingushetia, an autonomous republic bordering Chechnya, reports the Regional Operations Staff (ROS) for the Counter-Terrorism Campaign in the North Caucasus.
"In the course of initial interrogations, they [the detainees] identified a number of clandestine quarters where fellow rebels are hiding," an ROS official said. According to him, the measures that led to the rebels' arrest had been carried out as part of a special operation to crack down on the gang co-led by the infamous Chechen warlords Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev. The purchase of arms and equipment for this gang is known to have been bankrolled by Arab mercenary Abu al-Valid.
The gang is about 200 men strong, the ROS source said. He revealed that the "irreconcilable separatists" had been plotting to foil the president elect's inauguration, scheduled for next Sunday, and to instigate armed clashes across Chechnya.
According to the ROS official, the detainees also pinpointed rebel units' bases in Ingushetia and in forest-covered highlands of Chechnya, as well as the sites of rebel caches with weapons, munitions, explosive devices, and communications gadgetry. All those caches have by now been uncovered and their contents seized; caches with mines planted in them have been detonated, the source said.
Operatives of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, the Federal Security Service, and the Ministries of the Interior and Defense are carrying on with their operation to detect and arrest the remnants of the Maskhadov & Basayev gang and to seize their arms and ammunition, the ROS reports.