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Top rebel commander killed in eastern Ukraine

Separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine have said one of their top commanders, Alexei Mozgovoi, was killed Saturday after his vehicle was hit by a bomb and gunfire. Six other people were also killed in the attack.

Representatives from the separatist Luhansk region reported that Mozgovoi's car came under attack in the rebel-controlled town of Alchevsk, which lies some 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of the frontline between separatists and forces of Ukraine's Kyiv-based government.

Russian media carried a message from Luhansk official Sergei Gorenko, who said one line of inquiry was that it was "an act of sabotage by a group of spies." He said Luhansk forces were hunting for the unknown assailant.

According to Gorenko, there were seven dead in total.

'Ghost' brigade

Mozgovoi was leader of the rebel Prizrak or "Ghost" brigade that has taken part in some of the heaviest fighting in Ukraine's pro-Russia eastern region since early last year.

Despite a shaky European-brokered ceasefire agreed in February,

sporadic flare-ups have continued in recent months

.

The Ukrainian army said Saturday that one of its soldiers had been killed and five others injured over the past 24 hours.

In December, the United States added Mozgovoi's name to a list of people subject to sanctions for their involvement in the conflict, which has left 6,200 people dead in more than a year of fighting.

ipj/cmk (AFP, Reuters)

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