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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Up to 15 Kidnapped In Raid on Ingushetia

NAZRAN, Ingushetia — Armed men drove into Ingushetia and abducted up to 15 people, including policemen from a checkpoint and a slot machine hall, police and witnesses said.

Witnesses said the gunmen, dressed in camouflage, entered Ingushetia from Chechnya late last week and presented themselves as Chechen police officers.

Chechen authorities said they had nothing to do with the raid.

Islamist groups fighting an insurgency in Ingushetia against Moscow's rule frequently target gambling halls and shops selling alcohol, saying they contravene Islam.

An Ingush police officer, who refused to give his name, said the attackers drove to a checkpoint on the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia at about 11 p.m. Thursday.

They disarmed the guards and took at least one Ingush policeman hostage, the officer said. He said they claimed to be Chechen police but did not present any documents to prove this.

They then headed to the Ingush village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya, about 1 1/2 kilometers away, where they went into a slot machine hall and kidnapped more people, the officer said.

"At this stage, the investigation cannot give the precise number of those kidnapped. We still believe their number is between 10 and 15," the policeman said. "It is certain that there are several policemen among them, and their life is in danger."

Some witnesses said they believed that the gunmen fled with their hostages in several cars in the direction of Chechnya, but others said they had driven deeper into Ingushetia.

Chechen authorities denied involvement. "The Chechen Republic's Interior Ministry units have nothing to do with this incident, and we have nothing to say in this respect," a Chechen Interior Ministry spokesman said.

A duty officer at a Chechen police station at the Ingush border said Friday that "not a single security unit entered or left Chechnya last night."

Local people said Islamist militants had targeted the slot machine hall in Ordzhonikidzevskaya before, trying to set it on fire and shooting at it on several occasions.

"Gambling is banned by Islam," said Murad, a 29-year-old police officer. "I do not support militants, but I am against young men whiling away their time in this place cursed by God. That place is always filthy, smoke-filled and stinks of alcohol. They would have done better to spend this money on their children or their households."

n Rebel attacks in Chechnya on Thursday killed one federal soldier and wounded 10 other servicemen and police, The Associated Press reported Friday.