A land mine exploded Sunday in a Chechen village, killing five boys between the ages of 10 and 12.
Movladi Udugov, the Chechen vice premier and information minister, told the Interfax news agency that the explosion in Berkat-Yurt, a village four miles southwest of the capital of Grozny, appeared to be deliberate.
“The mine was remote-controlled. It was a premeditated explosion,” Udugov said. “It may be related to a series of terroristic acts carried out in Chechnya recently.”
The Russian Interior Ministry denied the charges, Interfax reported. Col. Nikolai Golovnyov, ministry spokesman in Moscow, said the boys were trying to take apart an artillery shell when it blew up, killing three of them and wounding another.
Last week, six Red Cross workers were shot to death while they slept at a hospital compound in a Chechen village, and six Russians were fatally shot in their homes in Grozny. Four members of a Russian family were killed Friday night in their Grozny home.
Chechen and Russian leaders say the killings appear aimed at destroying the peace process in Chechnya, where a cease-fire signed in August has largely held.