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Search for Survivors Goes on After Russian Blast

Up to 650 soldiers are seaching the wreckage of a Russian military base destroyed in a suicide bomb attack near the Chechen border, believed to be the work of Chechen rebels.

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35 were killed in the attack

Rescue workers are sifting through debris in an attempt to find survivors of a bomb attack on a military hospital in the Caucasas town of Mozdok, that has left at least 35 people dead.

The building was destroyed after a lorry laden with explosives crashed through the entrance gates and the driver, a suspected Chechen, blew himself up.

It is the deadliest attack outside Chechnya since last October, when Chechen rebels took a Moscow theatre hostage and 129 people died when security forces stormed the building, and the bloodiest, after a suicide bombing at an open-air rock festival in Moscow killed 15 spectators in May.

Important military base

Mozdok in North Ossetia, while lies 10 km (six miles) from the Chechen border, is the site of one of Russia's most important military bases in the Caucasus.

According to Fridinsky, the hospital treated many soldiers injured while fighting separatist rebels in Chechnya and that this may have been the reason why the building was a target. Around 150 people – soldiers and civilians – were believed to have been in the hospital at the time of the blast.

"Judging by the scale of the destruction and the number of people who were in the hospital….the number of casualties will probably be much higher", Russian Deputy General Prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky said at the site.

Rebels reject elections

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Salambek Maigov, Moscow spokesman for moderate rebel Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, said the separatist leadership was not involved. But he said he could not speak for other groups from the fragmented Chechen guerilla forces.

"The Chechen presidency is not responsible for terrorist acts and denounces such acts", he told the French news agency AFP. "It is hard to say who is behind this act….but it is not a commander from the official armed forces of Ichkeria (separatist Chechnya). We have never carried out, and do not carry out such acts", he said. Russia's President Vladimir Putin has scheduled a presidential election in Chechnya for October 5. Rebels have rejected the election plans and have called for resistance to Russian forces.

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