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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Umarov's Sister Is Abducted

Unidentified armed men abducted a sister of Chechen rebel warlord Doku Umarov early Friday morning, RIA-Novosti reported, citing the Chechen Interior Ministry. The men entered the house of Natalya Khumadova, 45, in the town of Urus-Martan, threatened her relatives and took her with them, the agency said.

Dmitry Grushkin of the Memorial human rights watchdog said on Friday that law enforcement agencies could have taken Khumadova hostage. Shortly after the Beslan hostage-taking raid last September, Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov suggested the practice of taking rebel leaders' relatives hostage.

"This could be a retaliatory hostage-taking," a practice that "has long been discussed by human rights advocates as one of the most dangerous tendencies in Chechnya," Grushkin said, reported.

In May, unidentified men abducted Umarov's wife, 6-month old son and 70-year-old father. In the past two years, his brother, a cousin and a nephew were also kidnapped. Nothing has been heard of these people since, said.

Umarov, who was named deputy to Chechen separatist leader Abdul-Khamid Sadullayev after the March killing of former Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, is believed to be the second-ranking rebel warlord, after Shamil Basayev. Pro-Moscow Chechen officials have accused Umarov of leading the June 2004 raid in Ingushetia in which more than 90 people were killed and a car bombing in Chechnya last month that killed 14.

In a June interview with Andrei Babitsky for Radio Liberty, Umarov denied involvement in terrorist attacks and criticized Basayev for ordering the Beslan raid. Speaking about the abduction of his relatives, Umarov said, "All this is God's will, and we have to accept it calmly."

In the months before Maskhadov's death, several of his relatives were kidnapped. Memorial blamed pro-Moscow Chechen forces for the abductions.