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    GROZNY, January 5th, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent) - There were no Ruslan Gelayev's militants among the bandits eliminated in Daghestan (a republic in the North Caucasus, bordering on Chechnya), Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudayev said Monday.

    In his words, the report about the elimination of Ruslan Gelayev in Daghestan circulated Monday is nothing but a false media rumour. We know for sure that there was no Gelayev among the militants killed in Daghestan, and the eliminated gang consisted of Arab mercenaries and Avars, Dudayev said.

    Earlier, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov announced the elimination of the gang in Daghestan's mountains.

    According to the minister, the gang heading for Georgia from Chechnya was persecuted and completely eliminated on December 29th, 2003. The 36-strong gang was tracked down and eliminated, with three of the bandits taken hostage, said the minister.

    Ivanov stressed that the gang included Arab mercenaries, and this can be documentarily confirmed, he said. Ivanov noted that the operation lasted so long because "firstly, we tried to avoid losses." Our troops had to deal with "well trained and equipped enemy", and secondly, there were adverse weather conditions, the minister added.

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