Official says 35 Chechen militants surrender

Thirty-five Chechen militants surrendered to the authorities Thursday and handed in their weapons, a government official in the war-ravaged southern Russian region said. Chechen Deputy Premier Adam Delimkhanov said the surrender ceremony in Gudermes, a stronghold of powerful regional Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, brought the number of people who have renounced the separatist struggle and handed in weapons to 322 since Russian authorities announced an amnesty plan in July. Russian and Moscow-backed Chechen authorities have been seeking the surrender of separatist fighters as part of an effort to end more than a decade of rebel resistance in the mostly Muslim region, the site of two devastating wars since 1994. Many who surrender join the ranks of Chechnya's security forces, which rights activists accuse of abuses against civilians. Large-scale battles in Chechnya ended years ago, and Kadyrov says rebel numbers are dwindling, but militants continue to target federal forces and local collaborators in regular raids and land mine explosions despite the deaths this year of separatist leaders such as Shamil Basayev. Also Thursday, police in Chechnya said a blast caused by an apparent gas leak ripped through a house outside the capital, Grozny, injuring six people, including four children. The explosion Wednesday is believed to have been caused by a gas canister leak, regional police said in a statement. On Wednesday, authorities said they had detained a suspected rebel leader in the province's southern Shatoi district and launched a manhunt for several other alleged militants from his group.