Kidnappings Abound in Ingushetia and Transcend its Borders

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 11 Issue: 9

On October 18, hundreds of people blocked a federal highway near Magas, the capital of Ingushetia. The protestors demanded that the government put an end to abductions in the republic. Dzhamaleil Gagiev’s disappearance from the village of Ali-Yurt in Ingushetia on October 14, and the failure of the government to respond to his relatives’ inquiries, triggered a protest action that included slogans like “Against the Terror of the Security Services.” After blocking the highway for two hours, the police managed to persuade the protestors to clear the highway and began negotiations with the abducted person’s relatives (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 18).      

The Russian security services have abducted suspected insurgents in Ingushetia for years. However, the latest trend appears to be that they are also abducting ethnic Ingush outside of the republic in increasing numbers. On November 1, a young Ingush, Alikhan Ortskhanov, disappeared in Moscow shortly after he arrived in the Russian capital to work at a construction site. His relatives suspect that the Russian security services were involved, as Ortskhanov was a close friend of an alleged insurgent, Aliskhan Kuzgov, who was killed by law enforcement agents in Ingushetia on October 10 (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, November 2).

On October 27, in two separate incidents, Umar Dzaurov and Khizir Daurbekov disappeared after they were arrested by Russian policemen in Rostov-on-Don and the Voronezh region, respectively. Both territories are hundreds of miles away from Ingushetia and in both cases the relatives are unable to get any information about the missing people from officials. A week earlier, on October 20, Muhamed Khutiev and Aslan Khashagulgov disappeared on their way from Dagestan to Ingushetia. Khashagulgov is a nephew of Issa Khashagulgov, who was arrested on September 25 and transferred to Lefortovo, the infamous Federal Security Service (FSB) prison in Moscow. Issa was a suspect in the suicide bombing at the market in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia on September 9, which claimed 19 lives and left over 200 people injured (wwwkavkaz-uzel.ru, October 29).

On October 12, FSB Director, Aleksandr Bortnikov, stated that the Vladikavkaz market bombing was solved and named Khashagulgov, a former policeman, as the mastermind of the attack. Khashagulgov’s lawyers, however, pointed out that the defendant was not formally accused of terrorism, but rather of illegal possession of arms and setting up an illegal armed group. Bortnikov named Ilez Daurbekov and Aliskhan Kuzgov as members of Khashagulgov’s illegal group. Earlier, on October 7, rights activists had named the two men as having been kidnapped and three days later, on October 10, both were allegedly killed in a shootout with the security forces. The most intriguing detail of the incident is that the Daurbekov clan and the brother of Ingushetia’s President, Yunus-bek Yevkurov, Uvais, had previously had a dispute over a building contract in Lower Achaluki in Ingushetia. The Daurbekov clan is said to be unofficially investigating the allegations of Ilez’s involvement in the insurgency and if he is not found guilty, the clan may declare blood vengeance against President Yevkurov’s clan (Kommersant, October 13).

Kidnapped ethnic Ingush often end up in detention centers in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia. The problem is that bilateral relations between North Ossetia and Ingushetia –and the Ossetian and Ingush people– are uneasy as the transfer of Ingush suspects to North Ossetia is seen by many Ingush in a negative light. In fact, Russian Interior Minister, Rashid Nurgaliev, allegedly cited the “unresolved Ossetian-Ingush conflict’s consequences” as a reason not to send detained Ingush to detention centers in Vladikavkaz in a report, dated August 28, 2007, to then Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Ingsuhetia.org website published a copy of this document (http://ingushetia.org/ru/news/main/Kto-i-pochemu-uvozit-zaderzhannykh-iz-Ingushetii-vo-Vladikavkaz/). The Russian president agreed to change the existing order, but the practice so far has continued.

On October 31, both North Ossetia and Ingushetia marked the 18th anniversary of the start of the Ossetian-Ingush conflict. The fighting broke out in 1992 between the Ingush and the Ossetians over the disputed land of the Prigorodny raion and Vladikavkaz that currently belongs administratively to North Ossetia but had belonged to Ingushetia before Stalin deported the Ingush people along with the Chechens to Kazakhstan’s steppes in 1944. The 1992 conflict claimed hundreds of lives and produced tens of thousands displaced people, mostly ethnic Ingush fleeing or being driven out of North Ossetia. Since then, some of the Ingush refugees have returned to their homes in North Ossetia, but many have not.

While officials on both sides made conciliatory statements, Ingushetia’s civil society activists harshly criticized their republican government. A statement signed by 12 Ingush civil organizations condemned Ingushetia’s government for not taking a principled position in defending the Ingush people’s rights to Moscow. The signatories of the document deplored the fact that Ingushetia’s leaders had agreed not to raise the issue of the disputed land with North Ossetia and Moscow. On February 23, 2009, President Yevkurov pressed Ingushetia’s parliament to adopt the municipalities’ boundaries law, which excluded the disputed lands from Ingushetia’s jurisdiction officially (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/blogs/posts/5917). About 1,500 people turned up to commemorate the Ossetian victims of the 1992 conflict in North Ossetia, where people expressed their patriotic feelings about those who fought the Ingush (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 30). In Ingushetia, people celebrated their own heroes at the memorial cemetery called the “Cemetery of those killed in Gazavat [Holy War]” (www.ingushetia.org, October 31).    

In December 2009, President Yevkurov and the head of North Ossetia, Taimuraz Mamsurov, vowed to improve bilateral relations. However, when the suicide bomber from Ingushetia attacked the market in Vladikavkaz on September 9, Ossetian youths took to the streets and tried to march on an Ingush-populated suburb of Vladikavkaz. Thus, despite strenuous efforts by the government, mutual distrust and hostility between the Ingush and the Ossetians remain strong and any incident in this volatile region could easily reignite clashes, despite the massive presence of Russian security services in the region.