Police Headquarters Bombed and Rights Activist Abducted in Ingushetia

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 30

On August 1, one policeman was killed and another wounded when they were inspecting a private home in the city of Malgobek and a group of suspected militants opened fire on them with automatic rifles and grenade launchers. The rebels escaped into a wooded area nearby but police say two of them were wounded in the shootout. Two militants were subsequently captured in the woods along with radio equipment and the owner of the private home was also detained.

At least two police officers were killed and five people wounded when a car bomb detonated outside a police station in Ingushetia’s largest city, Nazran, on July 30. The Associated Press reported that republican Interior Ministry and emergency officials variously put the death toll at two or three officers, with at least three others seriously wounded. Reuters quoted police sources as saying that an explosive device equivalent to 3-4 kilograms (6.6-8.8 pounds) of TNT blew up under a vehicle in a parking lot full of service cars outside police headquarters in Nazran. However, Newsrsu.com reported that the explosive device was much more powerful: according to the website, preliminary data suggested the bomb had the explosive force of 50 kilograms of TNT. It quoted a security official as saying: “The explosion was of such force that two policemen deployed in Ingushetia from Nizhny Novgorod, who were in an armored UAZ car that was standing not far away from the car which blew up, died from their wounds, while another Nizhny Novgorod policeman was wounded.”

RIA Novosti reported that the blast took place next to a mosque near Nazran’s Interior Ministry building. “The explosion in the car triggered a chain reaction of blasts in nearby cars,” a source in the republic’s emergency situations ministry told the news agency, which reported that up to 15 cars were destroyed as a result of a fire caused by the blast. Kavkazky Uzel reported on July 30 that a five-year-old child was among the five people wounded in the bombing.

Meanwhile, a bomb exploded at the front gate of the home of a pensioner in Nazran on July 28. No one was hurt in the blast. On July 27, a policeman was wounded when his car came under fire near the settlement of Ekazhevo in Ingushetia’s Nazran district. Itar-Tass reported that the attackers escaped in a white VAZ automobile. Overnight on July 25-26, unidentified gunmen fired on the home of Ruslan Albogacheiv, a deputy in Ingushetia’s People’s Assembly. No one was hurt in the attack.

On July 25, Zurab Tsechoev, a staffer with Ingushetia’s Mashr human rights NGO, was abducted by an estimated 50 armed men wearing masks. Reuters quoted the Committee to Protect Journalists as saying that Tsechoev’s abductors beat him and threatened to kill him if he did not leave the region.

The website of The Other Russia opposition group on July 26 quoted the head of the Memorial human rights group, Oleg Orlov, who provided details of the incident. “Three armored personnel carriers and three ‘Gazelle’ [minivans] drove up to Zurab’s house in the village of Troitskaya,” Orlov told the website. “About 50 people, in camouflage and armed, emerged from them, and began breaking through the gates of the house. Zurab himself came to open them. The arrivals immediately placed him on the ground, putting their weapons to him. Then, they quickly conducted a search of the dwelling, without any grounds, and drove him off with them.” According to The Other Russia’s website, it was unclear which branch of Russia’s security services the agents belonged to. The website quoted Memorial as saying that the agents returned a computer as well as mobile telephones seized from Tsechoev and that after his release, Tsechoev was able to call Magomed Mutsolgov, the head of Mashr, and disclose his whereabouts. According to The Other Russia, Tsechoev was severely beaten and could only move around with difficulty.

The Other Russia’s website quoted Tsechoev as saying that his interrogators had accused him of sending lists containing the names and addresses of law-enforcement officers to the opposition Ingushetiya.ru website. Tsechoev categorically denied this, explaining that he had no relation to any such lists or to the website, after which the officers struck him on his legs and on his back near his kidneys. Memorial suspects he may have a broken arm.

Commenting on the incident, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator, Nina Ognianova, said in a statement that Ingushetia “has gained notoriety as a lawless zone where enemies of the press can attack journalists with impunity.”