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Mar 24 2005, 23:51

In December 2004, armed people in masks and camouflage uniforms (people in Chechnya are inclined to believe them to be officers of the Chechen president's security service) abducted eight relatives of the late Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, two brothers and an aged sister among them (some sources say about 20 people were taken hostage).

On 24 February, military men captured Doku Umarov's brother, Ruslan, who is reported by some to be held at the main Russian military base in Khankala. Another relative of Umarov, Roman Atayev, was detained in Ingushetia in October 2004. Umarov's cousin, Zaurbek, disappeared two years ago and has since been missing.

Such cases are not rare in Chechnya. Residents of the republic say security agencies even detain relatives of ordinary members of the Chechen resistance movement saying they will release them when some or other rebel gives himself up.

"The practice of taking rebels' relatives hostage is rather widespread," Khamid, a 53-year-old resident of Chechnya's Vedeno district, says. "Suffice it to remember 'the voluntary surrender' of Magomed Khambiyev who gave himself up to the authorities last year, after some 40 of his relatives had been captured. I know a case when security agencies captured an aged man in our village because his son was in a rebel group. They agreed to release him only if his son surrendered. In a while, though, the rebel was killed and his father was released as 'unnecessary'."

Chechen law enforcement officers deny such statements. "The Chechen Internal Affairs Ministry has nothing to do with any illegal actions against relatives of Maskhadov, Umarov and other rebels. There is the law to combat crime, gangs and terrorism and we are not going to break it," an officer at Chechnya's Internal Affairs Ministry said.

More about abuses in Chechnya:

  • Under the Sign of Kadyrov href="http://eng.kavkaz.memo.ru/analyticstext/enganalytics/id/775992.html" target="_blank">Human Rights Practices in Russia's North Caucasus - 2004 href="http://eng.kavkaz.memo.ru/analyticstext/enganalytics/id/783140.html" target="_blank">Worse Than a War

Author: Sultan Abubakarov, CK correspondent;

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