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RIGHTS GROUP LISTS TOLL IN CHECHEN CONFLICT

More than 3,000 Chechen civilians have been killed in the war-wracked southern Russian region during the past five years, a Russian human rights group said Thursday.

Dmitry Grushkin of the Memorial human rights center reported that 1,543 residents were kidnapped over the same period, with 892 still missing, the Interfax news agency said.

Since January, 64 civilians have been kidnapped: 29 remain missing, 31 have been released, and two were found dead, Grushkin told Interfax.

Federal and Chechen authorities accuse human rights groups of exaggerating the number of abductions. Chechen officials have reported 1,800 disappearances since 1999.

Also Thursday, officials said a soldier was killed when an armored personnel carrier hit a land mine.

In Brussels, Belgium, the European Union announced $29 million in humanitarian aid for victims of the conflict in Chechnya. The aid will consist of food, water, health care, shelter, education and psychological help provided by nongovernment agencies in Chechnya and neighboring republics, the EU said.

The European bloc said nearly 200,000 people in Chechnya are refugees.

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