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Ingushetia Killings Continue Despite New President

  • Liz Fuller

New Ingushetian President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov

New Ingushetian President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov

The Ingush opposition reacted with jubilation to the dismissal on October 30 of the republic's ineffective and discredited president, Murat Zyazikov. And they have expressed their approval of and support for Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, the career military-intelligence officer selected by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as Zyazikov's successor.

One of Yevkurov's first moves was to meet on November 3 with opposition leaders to discuss the situation. But there has been no noticeable decline since Yevkurov's appointment in the number of attacks by the armed resistance on police and security forces in Ingushetia.

Since the election in the spring of 2002 of Zyazikov as Ingushetia's president, the republic has degenerated from a peaceful if impoverished backwater to the most unstable of the North Caucasus republics, with drive-by shootings and car-bombings occurring almost on a daily basis.

Former Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov
The catalyst for that escalating violence was a spate of abductions of young Ingush men, which many Ingush are convinced are the work of security organs in neighboring North Ossetia.

Anger And Despair

Ingushetia hit international headlines in June 2004 when a group comprising both Chechen and Ingush resistance fighters launched attacks on police and security facilities in Nazran, killing at least 88 people. Some of the Ingush participants in those attacks said they had joined the insurgency out of anger and despair after their male relatives were abducted and vanished without a trace.

Against a backdrop of increasing popular disillusionment with Zyazikov prompted by his indifference to corruption among his subordinates and his inability either to galvanize the stagnating economy or create new jobs to reduce the 67 percent unemployment rate, attacks by the North Caucasus resistance on police and security personnel, including forces sent to Ingushetia from elsewhere in the Russian Federation, have risen exponentially since early 2007.

So, too, has the number of abductions, or shootings in cold blood, of young Ingush, especially those known to be devout Muslims, who are for that reason accused of cooperation with the resistance. A senior Ingush Federal Security Service official commandeered to Ingushetia in the summer of 2007 to investigate those abductions was gunned down outside a roadside cafe weeks later. Subsequent developments corroborate the widely held hypothesis of involvement by North Ossetian security forces in the abductions.

Yevkurov's appointment has eased domestic political tensions that reached a peak after the killing on August 31 in police custody of Magomed Yevloyev, the owner of the independent website ingushetia.org (formerly ingushetiya.ru) which, more than any other media outlet, served to publicize the incompetence and corruption that pervaded the republic's leadership under Zyazikov.

But, perhaps not surprisingly, the change of leadership has not stopped attacks on police and security personnel. True, there was a brief lull in the days immediately following Yevkurov's endorsement by the Ingushetian parliament on October 31, but since November 5, four Ingush police officers have been killed and three more wounded, and five Russian Interior Ministry troops were injured by a roadside bomb on November 11. In October, 15 servicemen were killed and 16 wounded in nearly 30 separate attacks.

Increase In Tensions?

But the November 6 terrorist bombing in Vladikavkaz, the North Ossetian capital, in which 12 people died, and which local police claim was perpetrated by a female Ingush suicide bomber, could herald an increase in tensions with North Ossetia. So, too, could subsequent statements by Yevkurov at a press conference on November 10.

Yevkurov condemned the November 6 bombing as a deliberate attempt to destabilize the region and fuel animosity between the Ingush and Ossetians. At the same time, he affirmed his determination to expedite the return to their homes in North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodny Raion of thousands of Ingush forced to flee during the fighting in October-November 1992, describing the difficulties his own mother encountered in securing the right to return to the village of Tarskoye (where Yevkurov was born), according to gazeta.ru on November 11. But if Yevkurov now pressures the federal authorities too intensely to facilitate the repatriation process, the Ossetians may retaliate by stepping up their targeted abductions of Ingush men.

Meanwhile, the ongoing egregious human rights violations in Ingushetia -- in particular, the abductions -- are about to become the subject of two separate documentaries by European TV channels: a team of journalists from The Netherlands and a second from Sky News met in Magas on November 11 with prominent Ingush human rights activist Magomed Mutsolgov, who briefed them on the situation in the republic.

Whether they will also sit down with Yevkurov is unknown.
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