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Activists Say North Caucasus Civilians Targeted


A Russian rights group has cast doubt on Kremlin claims that four civilians killed in weekend operations against rebels in the North Caucasus were victims of crossfire.

In a report based on witnesses' accounts, Memorial said the four had been abducted, tortured, and killed.

Memorial's Aleksandr Cherkasov said local rights activists had photos showing the victims with multiple gunshot or knife wounds.

Russian authorities had no immediate reaction to the report.

Over the weekend, authorities said four civilians had accidently come under attack in a nearby forest during a large-scale operation that killed at least 20 militants in Ingushetia, a region bordering Chechnya.

Ingushetian leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov apologized for their "unfortunate deaths" and paid the families compensation.

Unofficial Islamist website kavkazcenter.com, citing relatives and local witnesses, said that 14 civilians had been killed during last week's clashes, mostly teenagers who were picking wild garlic in a forest.

compiled from agency reports
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