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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kidnappers Release Correspondent Held in Chechnya

An Itar-Tass correspondent in Chechnya was kidnapped and held for nearly a week before being set free under pressure from his relatives and Chechen authorities, the news agency reported Monday.

Said Isayev, a Chechen by nationality who also was working as a freelancer for The Moscow Times, was seized by unknown men in downtown Grozny while reporting at a rally, Itar-Tass reported.

The information, Itar-Tass said, came from a telephone interview with Sharip Asuyev, a journalist who said he is Isayev's brother.

Another relative, Dzhabrail Bakriyev, was kidnapped along with Isayev. Both were driven away in a car.

Saturday night, Isayev and Bakriyev attempted to escape, but the attempt failed and Isayev was wounded. The kidnappers brought him to a Grozny hospital, but after he was treated they took him back despite protests from the doctors, Itar-Tass reported. The nature of the injury was unclear.

Isayev was released Sunday afternoon under pressure from relatives and local authorities who declared that any attempt to restrict journalists' freedom in Chechnya would be "punished by a death sentence," Itar-Tass said. The report did not say whether Bakriyev was also released.

Isayev could not be immediately reached. His mobile telephone was not answering Monday and calls also were not going through to the Itar-Tass office in Grozny, where he was said to be staying. "Our correspondents call us. We can't contact them," an Itar-Tass editor in Moscow said.

According to Asuyev, the details of Isayev's kidnapping and release were still being established.

Meanwhile, eight other hostages were freed in Chechnya following negotiations and taken to Russia, The Associated Press reported Saturday, citing an Interior Ministry spokesman.

Igor Korotkov, an Interior Ministry spokesman in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, said the freed hostages were taken to the town of Pyatigorsk in southern Russia.

The hostages included two Dagestani policemen and a Russian soldier, Itar-Tass said. They were released Friday night after the intervention of a group set up by Alexander Lebed, the governor of the Krasnoyarsk region.

The hostages had been held for periods ranging from two months to more than a year.

According to the news agencies, no ransom was paid to the kidnappers.

Chechen gangs have turned kidnapping into a business. From January 1997 to August 1999, 1,094 people were abducted in Chechnya and neighboring regions, according to the Interior Ministry. About half of them are still in captivity.

Details of releases are seldom made public, but in most cases ransoms are believed to be paid.

The ransom paid for low-profile hostages ranges from about $5,000 to $145,000 according to Vyacheslav Izmailov, a retired major and military analyst with the newspaper Novaya Gazeta who has brokered the release of hostages. For high-profile hostages including foreigners and high Russian officials, ransoms as high as several million dollars are demanded.

Still missing is Major General Gennady Shpigun, for whom kidnappers have demanded the biggest reported ransom: $15 million. He was kidnapped in March after landing in Grozny airport.