Ingushetia's Forces Accused of Abuses

Security forces are responsible for widespread human rights abuses in Ingushetia, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Wednesday.

The New York-based rights group says it has documented dozens of summary and arbitrary detentions, acts of torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions committed by security forces combating insurgents in the republic.

"The crimes in Ingushetia, although on a far smaller scale, evoke the thousands of enforced disappearances, killings and torture cases that plagued Chechnya for more than a decade," said Rachel Denber, deputy director of the group's Europe and Central Asia division.

Security forces in Ingushetia have been fighting militants, who stage frequent attacks on police and local authorities in a bid to oust the government and promote Islamic rule in the Caucasus.

But heavy-handed attempts to curb the insurgency have resulted in persecution of peaceful Muslims and government critics, the report said. Opposition groups are marginalized, independent media stifled and rallies are violently dispersed, it said.

"In this situation, the popular support to insurgents is only rising," said the group's researcher Tatyana Lokshina.

She said the youngest victim of extrajudicial killings was a 6-year-old boy who was killed in November by security forces during a raid on suspected Islamic militants.

The Kremlin and the Foreign Ministry did not have any immediate comment, but Ingush officials harshly criticized the report.

"This report is 90 percent biased," said regional lawmaker Shamsudin Mogushkov.

Ingushetia's human rights ombudsman, Karimsultan Kukurkhayev, said the report is designed to turn its readers into "zombies." "There has not been a single abduction or case of torture this year," he said.

Human Rights Watch urged the government to change what it called "brutal" counterinsurgency policies and punish those responsible for violations in Ingushetia.

"If Russia does not want Ingushetia to become a full-blown human rights crisis like Chechnya, it must stop these violations," Lokshina said.

The group warned in the report that the "dirty war" tactics against insurgents would likely further destabilize Ingushetia and the volatile North Caucasus.

Opposition activist Magomet Khasbiyev said the escalation of violence in Ingushetia is fueled by the Kremlin's "shortsighted" policies, which target religious youths and lack flexibility in addressing social issues.

"If things go on this way, Russia may soon lose the Caucasus," Khasbiyev said.