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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mass Grave Discovered in Chechnya

The bodies of dozens of Chechen men, most of them shot, have been found at a mass dumping site close to military headquarters in Chechnya, about five kilometers west of Grozny.

The chief prosecutor of Chechnya, Vsevolod Chernov, who flew to the area by helicopter from his office in Gudermes over the weekend, said Sunday that 11 bodies had been found, all of them booby-trapped with explosive devices, Interfax reported.

During the latest war in Chechnya, thousands of Chechen civilian men have been reported missing.

The first bodies to be recovered from the dumping site were typical cases: a 16-year-old boy named Musayev and his friend, Magomed Madayev, about two years older, who disappeared together in Grozny in December.

The group of bodies, in various stages of decomposition, was discovered by a Grozny man in a deserted village.

They went undiscovered for many months because the village, close to military headquarters in Khankala, was considered highly dangerous by Chechens.

The bodies were scattered throughout the heavily mined area in the Groznensko-Selsky district between Grozny and Khankala. The village was sealed off by the military Saturday to prevent relatives of missing men from coming to search.

Nadezhda Pogosova, a senior investigator at the Chechen prosecutor's office, said in a telephone interview Saturday that some of the men might have been executed. She also said that, upon arriving to examine the site, prosecutor Chernov nearly stepped on a mine.

He went into several houses and flew over the area several times in the helicopter spotting corpses, Pogosova said. Several were found in houses, while others were on the roads and scattered throughout the village. Sappers were called in to clear the area of mines.

Human rights groups speculated Saturday that servicemen at the Khankhala base used the village as a disposal site for executed prisoners.

Russian forces in Chechnya routinely have imprisoned and tortured Chechen men, often ransoming them to relatives, according to a detailed report by Human Rights Watch released in October.

Tatyana Kasatkina, executive director of the Human Rights Memorial Center, based in Nazran in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia, said by telephone Saturday that relatives of missing men sometimes could buy a man's freedom from the base at Khankala.

"But sometimes relatives can only buy back dead bodies, and some missing people are never found," she said.

Kasatkina said Chechen rebels have not controlled the area in more than a year.

Some of the bodies had been partially eaten by dogs, and some were in an advanced state of decomposition. Others appeared to have been killed more recently. One was clad in a military jacket, but the rest were wearing civilian clothing, according to Pogosova.

She said after news of the discovery spread in Grozny on Saturday, several men went to the area to search for missing relatives, including the father of the 16-year-old boy, Musayev.

He identified the bodies of his son and Madayev. The father had reported his son missing in December.