Russian forces hold military exercises to counteract militants

Russian military forces are holding 10 days of exercises in the south region, aimed at training for anti-militant operations.

Servicemen from the Caspian Sea naval fleet, Interior Ministry troops, border guards, air force and army are taking part in exercises spanning five republics in Russia's Caucasus Mountains region, said Vitaly Manushko, a spokesman for the regional military district.

The exercises, which opened Tuesday and are to be completed on Sept. 23, are bigger in scale than similar maneuvers held in 2003, Manushko said. They are to include tactical maneuvers to counter "illegal armed formations" - the so called rebels including Islamic extremists.

The maneuvers cover the republics of North Ossetia, where last year's Beslan school hostage crisis occurred, Ingushetia, Adygeya, Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkariya - all in close proximity to Chechnya, where troops and police have been fighting rebels for the better part of the last decade, the AP reports.

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