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Damage Assessed After Daghestan Operation Displaces Hundreds

MAKHACHKALA, Russia -- Complaints by displaced residents have prompted Russian authorities to assess damage inflicted by military and security forces during an operation targeting suspected militants in the North Caucasus region of Daghestan.

Nearly 1,000 residents of Vremenny, in Daghestan's central Untsukul district, were forced to leave their homes in September as a result of a large-scale "counterterrorism operation."

A commission to assess the damage was established on November 25 after residents addressed letters of protest to President Vladimir Putin and Daghestan's head, Ramazan Abdulatipov, seeking compensation so that they can repair their homes or move elsewhere in Daghestan.

Residents said that the troops had isolated the settlement from the outside world, searching houses, taking away local men, damaging homes and infrastucture, and forcing the closure of its only hospital and school.

The Untsukul district has been the site of frequent raids by government forces seeking to root out an Islamic insurgency that stemmed from post-Soviet separatist wars in Chechnya but spread to Daghestan and other mostly Muslim regions in the North Caucasus.

Government critics say heavy-handed tactics by security forces fuel the insurgency.

Security forces remain in Vremenny while its residents have been scattered with many of them seeking shelter with relatives.

The commission was due to start work on November 26 under the leadership of Zapir Akhmedov, deputy head of Untsukul District.

Aliaskhab Magomedov, the head of Gimry -- a town that includes Vremenny -- said on November 25 that the assessment would take four days.

He said nobody will be allowed to enter Vremenny until every house and every household is fully checked and damages are assessed.

According to Magomedov, security forces had started to leave Vremenny and their number was estimated to be one tenth of the original number of troops that entered the settlement in mid-September.

He said a military checkpoint near Vremenny will remain in place.

Magomedov also said that a 4.3-kilometer road tunnel connecting the mountain-ringed Gimry to the city of Buinaksk will reopen after the commission accomplishes its work.

The tunnel has been shut since the start of the security operation in Vremenny in September.

With reporting by and