From: MSN NicknameEagle_wng (Original Message) Sent: 9/30/2007 12:47 AM
Wave of killings fuels fear of a second Chechnya
Muslim gunmen are murdering ethnic Russians in Ingushetia as security forces take their own toll
Tom Parfitt in Karabulak, Ingushetia
Sunday September 30, 2007
It was gone midnight and Vera Draganchuk was drifting off to sleep when she heard the shots. ‘My son Mikhail appeared in the bedroom doorway,’ said the schoolteacher. ‘There was fear in his eyes and he was swaying strangely. He couldn’t speak. Then I realised the shooting was in our home.’
Vera scrambled through the window into the yard of her cottage in the small town of Karabulak in Ingushetia, a Muslim republic in southern Russia. She urged her son to follow her but Mikhail, 22, didn’t make it. He collapsed just under the windowsill, shot through the heart. Vera found her second son, Denis, 19, slumped on the doorstep. Denis died in an ambulance on the way to hospital. On that early morning of 1 September, Vera also found her husband Anatoly’s bullet-riddled corpse, lying in the hallway. The attackers had fled.
The Kremlin may have largely pacified its rebel Chechnya region through a local hardman, the 30-year-old tiger-owning Ramzan Kadyrov, but neighbouring Ingushetia is on the brink of a crisis.
While Chechnya – first a cauldron of separatist sentiment in the Nineties and then a new outpost in the global jihad – boasts safe streets and new apartment blocks, in recent weeks Ingushetia has suffered a wave of brutal executions of people of non-Ingush nationalities.
A poor and rural republic about the size of Suffolk, Ingushetia is now the epicentre of terrorism in Russia. And some analysts are warning of a ‘second Chechnya’ in the making.
The killing began last July when an ethnic Russian schoolteacher and her two children were shot dead in their beds by an intruder. At their funeral a few days later a bomb exploded, injuring several people. Unidentified assailants then murdered Vera Draganchuk’s family on 1 September. Soon after, armed men assassinated a Russian doctor outside her apartment block. A gypsy man and his two sons were the next to be shot dead at home.
There are few signs that the killing will stop and no one can be quite sure who is carrying out the murders.
‘My parents were born here and so was I,’ says Vera, 52. ‘I’m a native ethnic Russian and I have no enemies.’ Neighbours of the other victims say that they had no conflicts with local Ingush people.
That may be the point. Since the spring, policemen and soldiers have been killed or injured almost daily as their vehicles or offices come under fire from Islamic militants, based in the mountains of Chechnya and Ingushetia.
This summer an adviser to Murad Zyazikov – the former KGB officer who is President of Ingushetia – was gunned down and the President’s own motorcade was fired on. On 17 September a senior officer in the Federal Security Service (FSB) died after his car was strafed by gunfire.
The fear and uncertainty created by killing innocent civilians may be just another weapon in the armoury of the boyeviki, or rebel fighters, who aim to carve out an Islamic power base in the North Caucasus. Yet many believe that darker forces are at work. The respected Caucasus expert Alexei Malashenko suspects there is a pact between the militants and Zyazikov’s political opponents, who may include elements of the security services that resent the President’s weakness and want him ousted.
In turn, opposition figures say the killings play into Zyazikov’s hands by making it impossible for Moscow to remove him from office at a time of great crisis. The Kremlin is certainly rattled. In the summer it sent 2,500 Interior Ministry troops to Ingushetia in an attempt to shore up the local security forces. Dmitry Kozak, President Putin’s representative in southern Russia, admitted concern over the republic this month but urged caution. ‘Many have the impression that the entire North Caucasus has caught fire,’ he said. ‘This is not the case. This phenomenon is local in its nature.’
For the local people, that’s little consolation. Critics say that one factor fuelling resentment against the authorities is the brutality of security forces.
At 5am on 8 September, the Ingush security forces arrested Murad Bogatyryov, a suspected boyevik, at his home in Verkhniye Achaluki, a mountain village. An official protocol showed that nothing suspicious was found during a search of the shack. Bogatyryov was taken to a local police station. His wife Aset, who had taken their three young daughters away for the night, arrived in time to see his corpse being brought out of the building and loaded into a van.
Ingushetia’s chief prosecutor later claimed that the 37-year-old construction worker had died of a heart attack. ‘No traces of violence were discovered on his body,’ he said. A video clip of his corpse at the mortuary seen by The Observer tells a different story. Murad’s body is covered in black welts and bruises.
Human rights groups say that at least two other young men were shot dead this month by security forces who then planted weapons on them to make it appear they had resisted arrest.
‘This is extra-judicial killing,’ said Azamat Nalgiev, former deputy chairman of the Ingush parliament. ‘When President Vladimir Putin said the rebels should be “rubbed out in the toilet”, the FSB knew what it had to do.’
As for the murders of non-Ingush residents, several suspects have been arrested but then released without charge. President Zyazikov declined an offer to meet The Observer, but denied in interviews with Russian media that he had lost control. ‘When a chicken gets run over these days, it’s called a terrorist attack,’ he said, claiming his republic was no more violent than others.
Zyazikov’s critics say poverty and rampant corruption in the republic have fuelled armed opposition. For Vera Draganchuk, however, such debates mean little. ‘I’m afraid they might kill me too,’ she says. ‘But it doesn’t matter. My family is gone; my life is already destroyed.’