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    MAKHACHKALA, January 5th, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent) - Daghestan's (a North Caucasus republic bordering on Chechnya) Interior Ministry does not rule out that Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelayev could have died in a snow avalanche.

    "Gelayev can be one of the extremists who are still hiding in mountain forests from retribution, or he can be among the militants who died in a snow avalanche," Deputy Interior Minister of Daghestan and chief of the public security service Major General Magomed Omarov said in a RIA Novosti interview.

    He participated in the operation to eliminate a militant gang in the Tsuntinsky district of Daghestan.

    Referring to the militants' testimony, the general said that Gelayev headed the mentioned gang. According to Omarov, he failed to identify Gelayev among the militants killed in the operation. "There is no Gelayev among the captives either," said Omarov who had met Gelayev.

    Earlier, Daghestan and Chechnya's power structures refused to confirm media reports about Gelayev's elimination.

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