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Russia: Security Sweep Fails To Stem Violence In Ingushetia

(RFE/RL) July 31, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- One police officer was killed and three were wounded in the latest attack in Ingushetia.

According to Russian media reports, unidentified assailants opened fire early today on a bus carrying members of a police unit in the village of Nizhnye Achaluki. The gunmen then escaped by car.

"A bus carrying members of a [Russian Interior Ministry] mobile team came under fire in the village of Nizhnie Achaluki of Malgobek Raion," Ingushetian Interior Ministry spokesman Yakhya Khadziyev said today. "The attackers were driving a black VAZ-2112 [Lada car]. We have begun a republic-wide operation to capture the perpetrators."

Massive Crackdown

The attack was the latest in a spate of deadly assaults that have taken place in the restive southern Russian republic, which borders Chechnya.

The attacks have continued despite a massive crackdown launched by Russian authorities on July 25 in which hundreds of men have been rounded up in security sweeps.

Just two days after Russia launched its crackdown, militants attacked the local headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the republican capital, Magas, killing one security officer and wounding two others.

Attacks have continued despite a massive crackdown launched by Russian authorities.

Four suspects have been detained so far in connection with the attack.

Three days later, a police officer was wounded when an assailant threw a grenade at a police patrol in Malgobek.

Russian officials say militants from neighboring Chechnya are behind the series of attacks.

But observers say there is a lot on anger among Ingush against local authorities, and that the recent crackdown is making the situation worse.

Zalina Markhiyeva, editor in chief of the online news site, discussed the situation with RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service.

"We can only guess about [who and what is behind] this," Markhiyeva said. "Some say these are people pursuing their own dark goals. Some say they are people who had their relatives seized. We can only guess."

Markhiyeva adds that the state-controlled media in Ingushetia is doing its best to hide the increasing unrest from public view.

"The authorities in our republic are trying to close people's eyes so they don't know what is happening and will think everything is stable," Markhiyeva said. "State television is reporting about wheat and vegetable harvests. Explosions are happening and when we turn on the television we want to see what is happening. Instead they are showing that truckloads of wheat are arriving."

Rising Anger

Discontent has been rising steadily in Ingushetia in recent years.

Ever since Russian forces re-invaded neighboring Chechnya in 1999, security forces in Ingushetia have launched regular security sweeps, rounding up young men suspected of being Islamic militants. Many of the detained men disappear.

The anger deepened when the Ingushetia's popular president Ruslan Aushev was defeated by Murat Zyazikov in an April 2002 election that many thought was rigged.

Zyazikov, a career officer in Russia's FSB, is extremely unpopular in Ingushetia and is largely seen as doing the Kremlin's bidding at the expense of local needs.

His motorcade came under fire on July 21, just days before the recent crackdown, but no one was injured.

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