June 23, 2006

Chechen rebel chief vows wider attacks on Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov said on
Friday that he plans to expand attacks against Russia, his
first public statement since taking over as chief of the
Chechen separatists.

In a statement dated June 23 and posted on a rebel Web
site, www.daymohk.org, Umarov said the rebels would concentrate
on military installations and avoid most civilians.

"We intend to complete preparations this summer for a
significant widening of the area of military actions, to
include not only the Caucasus but many regions of Russia,"
Umarov said in the statement.

"But I announce with due authority that the targets of our
blows and attacks will be exclusively military and police

Umarov took over as head of the Chechen resistance after
Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev was killed on June 17 in a battle with
Russian troops, the statement said.

Russia's Federal Security Service could not be reached for
comment late on Friday.

Russia has been fighting Chechen rebels for more than a
decade but attacks on Russian troops are common, though the
Chechen rebel movement has fragmented under unceasing pressure
from Russian forces.

The Kremlin says it is fighting Islamic militants who are
seeking to destabilize the whole region and establish a
religious state. Chechen rebels say they want to drive the
Russian Empire from their land.

Any talk of escalating the conflict is closely watched
after bloody assaults on civilians such as the 2004 Beslan
school siege.

While Umarov said he would attack only military and police
installations, he said some civilian objects could be hit if
they were being used to carry out operations against rebels.

"I, like my predecessors as president, will decisively stop
all hits against civilian objects and people, with the
exclusion of those people and structures which carry out
against us subversive and intelligence operations under the
cover of civilian status," Umarov said.