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Up to 1,000 grieving Chechens gathered in a suburb of the capital Friday to mourn slain rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudayev.

Weeping women attended a religious ceremony, men gathered near a house belonging to Dudayev's relatives, and one speaker after another praised the man who led Chechnya's drive for independence.

Russian troops took no action against the mourners.

In the center of the city, a wasteland where the former presidential palace and most neighboring buildings have been destroyed, Russia's OMON special policemen were not convinced the man they fought for 16 months was really dead.

"We do not believe he is dead. There is no real evidence, no real facts," said one.

Dudayev's government said the rebel leader had been killed Sunday in a rocket attack from the air at Gekhi-Chu, about 20 miles southwest of Grozny.

Dudayev, 52, was buried Wednesday in a secret location, rebel leaders said.

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