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    FEWER PEOPLE KIDNAPPED IN CHECHNYA

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    GROZNY, March 18, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov said on Thursday in Grozny at the first session of the Chechen government with new prime minister of the republic, Sergei Abramov, participating, that crimes connected with kidnapping are committed more seldom now.

    In comparison with 2003, for the two first months of 2004, the number of kidnaps reduced three-fold, from 69 to 19, Mr. Alkhanov said.

    In his words, about 3,000 people are missing in the republic today. Mr. Alkhanov admitted that not only bandits but law enforcement officers are engaged in kidnapping in the republic.

    In his turn, Colonel General Valery Baranov, commander of the Joint Group of Forces in the North Caucasus, who took part in the session, said the Chechen interior ministry is being reinforced now.

    "Temporary interior affairs offices will be withdrawn from the republic's mountainous regions. Only some experts to render assistance to Chechen policemen will stay there," General Baranov said.

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