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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Activists: Abuses Spread to Ingushetia

Federal forces have been carrying out abusive security sweeps for suspected Chechen rebels in Ingushetia, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

The New York-based human rights group said it has documented numerous cases of arbitrary detention, ill treatment and looting during so-called mopping-up raids in Ingushetia.

"In Ingushetia, Russian forces are showing the same patterns of brutal behavior that we've seen in Chechnya," Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the group's Europe and Central Asia division, said in a statement. "The Russian government must rein them in or risk spreading insecurity to Ingushetia."

Anna Neistat, the head of the organization's Moscow office, who recently returned from a trip to Ingushetia, said the operations in Ingushetia had targeted both Chechen refugees and ethnic Ingush. There are an estimated 86,000 Chechen refugees in the region.

In one incident, federal forces were suspected of killing an Ingush man and wounding his mother, and in another a Russian soldier allegedly shot and wounded a 16-year-old Ingush boy in the leg, she said.

Neistat said military prosecutors refused to investigate either incident despite requests from local officials in Ingushetia, the mostly Muslim republic that borders Chechnya to the west and shares a language and culture with it.

"If such arbitrariness and impunity continues, we will get a second Chechnya in just a few months," Neistat said at a news conference.

She said that a likely goal of the raids and other alleged abuses in Ingushetia is to force Chechen refugees to move back home by creating a feeling of fear and insecurity.

Russian officials were not immediately available for comment.

Federal authorities have long urged the refugees to return to Chechnya in an attempt to show that life in the region is returning to normal. The authorities shut one refugee camp in Ingushetia last fall, but international protests and logistical difficulties have apparently saved other settlements from closure.

Daily clashes and violence continue in Chechnya, with rebels targeting federal servicemen in raids and bombings. A pro-Moscow Chechen police officer was killed and another wounded in a rebel shelling Tuesday in Grozny.

In a separate incident in Grozny, a sapper was killed Tuesday while trying to defuse a rebel land mine, an official in the Mocow-backed administration in Chechnya said on condition of anonymity.

Neistat said the Kremlin's amnesty for some rebels who agree to disarm and Oct. 5 presidential elections in Chechnya would not be sufficient to end hostilities.

"It's necessary to end military abuses, bring those responsible to justice and try to win the population's trust," she said.