updated 8/14/2005 6:59:46 AM ET 2005-08-14T10:59:46

A land mine exploded Sunday in Chechnya when Russia troops came to the aid of a local official whose home was under attack by rebels, killing a senior Russian military officer and four other soldiers, officials said.

Col. Alexander Kayak, the top officer in Chechnya’s southern Urus-Martan region, and four other servicemen died when rebels detonated a radio-controlled land mine, said Roman Shchekotin, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s branch in southern Russia.

The blast wounded two other soldiers, Shchekotin said. It occurred in the village of Roshni-Chu, 15 miles southwest of the Chechen capital, Grozny.

Kayak had led a group of servicemen who rushed to Roshni-Chu after rebels had attacked a house belonging to the Moscow-backed civilian administrator.

Rebels apparently had expected Russian soldiers to come to the administrator’s rescue and prepared an ambush, Shchekotin said.

The administrator’s house burned to the ground, but he wasn’t hurt, the Interfax news agency reported.

Russian troops re-entered Chechnya in 1999 three years after withdrawing at the end of a disastrous 20-month war with separatist forces that left the province de facto independent. Although Russia’s army and its local allies control most of the small Caucasus territory, rebels based in mountain hideouts mount regular hit-and-run attacks.

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