272 Terrorist Attacks Staged in Chechnya Over 2002

As many as 272 terrorist attacks were staged in Chechnya in 2002, Boris Gryzlov, Russian Interior Minister, told a meeting at the Interior Ministry on Thursday.

He found it premature to talk about Russians' safety, with Chechnya remaining a hotbed of terrorist activity. He explained that terrorists had stepped up activities outside Chechnya recalling the siege of the Moscow theatre when spectators of the Nord-Ost musical were taken hostage.

When commenting on the situation in the republic, the minister said "it is rather complex as new terrorist attacks are possible, suicide-bombers may be employed, and Chechen people possess a lot of unregistered weapons." "Over 3,300 pieces of weapons and about 3.5 million cartridges and other ammunition were confiscated in 2002 alone," he said.

He went on to say that militants continue exerting pressure on civilians, particularly on the civilian authorities and those who cooperate with them. Moreover, militant leaders are trying hard to wreck the referendum on the Chechen constitution scheduled for March 23.

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