Three Chechen girls found dead in Polish mountains

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WARSAW, Sep 14 (Reuters) Three Chechen girls, one a six-year-old, died as they tried to cross into Poland illegally with their mother through the mountains at the border with Ukraine, Polish border guards said today.

Guards found the exhausted woman, carrying a two-year-old girl, 20 metres (yards) from the border late yesterday and she told them where to find the bodies of her other daughters.

''The woman was a Russian citizen of Chechen ethnicity and crossed the Ukrainian-Polish border illegally,'' said spokesman Jacek Sonta. ''She said her daughters hadn't survived the hardship of the journey.'' The woman said she had been wandering the mountains for four days, during which it had been cold and wet. The bodies were found at an altitude of 1,100 metres.

The woman and the two-year-old are in hospital. Polish authorities are carrying out autopsies on the bodies of the girls, aged 6, 10 and 13.

Polish border guards stopped more than 1,500 people trying to enter the EU member country in the first half of 2007. Most were from the former Soviet Union.

The Russian region of Chechnya has suffered more than a decade of bloodshed since a separatist rebellion broke out, although large-scale fighting has now died down.

REUTERS SBC HT1458

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