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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3 Bodies In Ditch Identified

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia — Three bodies found recently in an abandoned Chechen village were Chechen men who had been arrested by federal forces in December, a respected Russian human rights group said Tuesday.

The allegation by the Memorial group countered the military's accounts, which suggested the men were rebels killed during fighting and abandoned by comrades on the battlefield.

The charge came amid mounting calls for an independent investigation into the discovery of bodies found sprawled in tall grass and in abandoned summer homes over the weekend in the hamlet of Dachny, near the Russian military headquarters in Grozny.

By Tuesday, Chechnya's pro-Moscow chief prosecutor, Vsevolod Chernov, said he had no conclusive information on how many bodies are in Dachny, when they were killed or by whom. Chernov said 16 bodies have been found so far, and three have been identified by relatives, according to the newspaper Kommersant.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement Tuesday that up to 200 bodies could be in the village. The names and hometowns of the three men match names on a list of missing people kept by Memorial, said spokesman Musa Baisayev. Baisayev identified them as Said Musayev, 16, Magomed Magomadov, 24, and Odes Metayev, 23.

Neighbors reported the men disappeared after a police raid Dec. 12. According to Memorial, police pulled from 21 to 24 young men from their beds at night and put them in cars, saying they would sort out documents later. Residents said the police were searching for suspected black-market gasoline traders.

All the men were released except the three who later turned up dead, Baisayev said.

There was no immediate comment from the Russian military on the claim. Russian officials have suggested the bodies were rebels killed during fighting, Kommersant reported Tuesday, citing the Grozny military command.