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REBELS ATTACK ALONG TAJIK BORDER

SHARE REBELS ATTACK ALONG TAJIK BORDER

Hundreds of Islamic rebels poured across the border from Afghanistan early Friday in the heaviest fighting this year with Russian troops helping guard the frontier, officials said.

Seven Russians were reported killed and 14 wounded. Officials said about 50 guerrillas died.Russia sent troops to this former Soviet republic last year to bolster the Tajik government in its fight with Islamic militants. The rebels have stepped up hit-and-run attacks in recent months, and there are concerns they will try to disrupt the presidential election set for next month.

The rebels heavily shelled the Russian border guards from neighboring Afghanistan overnight and then launched attacks across the border before dawn, said Valentin Malyutin, a spokesman in Moscow for Russia's border guards.

The Russians were supported by artillery and Su-27 fighter-bombers, he said. More troops were moving up to the border.

Soldiers in one outpost repulsed 15 assaults, Col. Vladimir Novikov, commander of Russia's border guards in Tajikistan, told the ITAR-Tass news agency.