Raid in Ingushetia Kills 3

MUZHICHY, Ingushetia -- An armed group raided a village in Ingushetia and killed three men linked to the security forces, witnesses said Wednesday, adding to growing instability in the area.

On Wednesday, police and special forces in armored personnel carriers patrolled the dusty village of Muzhichy, which nestles in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains in southern Ingushetia, next to Chechnya.

An eyewitness said a group of 15 armed men dragged the three men from a group standing outside a shop on Tuesday night and shot them in a well-planned attack.

"The whole attack lasted no more than 15 minutes," said Isa Gandarov, a lawyer. "There were no more than 15 rebels, and they spoke in Chechen, Ingush and Russian."

The dead men were a policeman, a former Interior Ministry officer and a military teacher, according to Russian news reports.

Most of the people living in Muzhichy hurried on when asked for comment Wednesday. One woman said in an exasperated voice: "Why were these people killed? Because they were trying to support their families?"

This is the latest in a string of attacks against Ingush authorities, in which dozens of policemen, judges and other officials have died. Human rights groups accuse the authorities of reacting with excessive force to the attacks.

Last year, the federal government boosted the number of its soldiers in Ingushetia and declared a counterterrorist operation in the region to combat increased rebel operations.

Rebel activity has shifted from Chechnya to Ingushetia and Dagestan over the last couple of years after Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov improved security in his republic.

Now military helicopters fly hourly over Ingushetia, and the army sweeps the roadsides daily for bombs.