North Caucasus 'at risk' of mass civilian killings by Russia

A military strike by Russia against insurgents in its North Caucasus region would threaten the lives of scores of civilians, a report said.

North Caucasus 'at risk' of mass civilian killings by Russia

A military strike by Russia against insurgents in its North Caucasus region is much more likely this year than last and would threaten the lives of scores of civilians, a report showed on Tuesday.

Conflict has escalated in the past year in Muslim provinces of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

Suicide attacks that killed 40 on the Moscow metro last month turned the global spotlight on the long-running conflict.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said the culprits behind the bombings must be scraped "from the bottom of the sewers".

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) said in a report: "The combination of circumstances is dangerously close to those that prevailed in 1999 before the start of the second Chechen war, which caused the deaths of at least 25,000 civilians."

The report forms part of its annual index of countries where civilians are most at risk of genocide, mass killings or violent repression.

In those three Muslim regions held by Russia, at least 862 people were killed last year in clashes, bombings and gun battles, according to internet news agency Caucasian Knot.

Russia has jumped up seven places to rank 16th in the 2010 index of 70 countries, calculated on the basis of 10 indicators such as measures of conflict, governance and economic risk.

"There is a significant danger that we will see an escalation of the conflict in the North Caucasus and, unless the Russian armed forces employ very different means and approach to those employed in the second Chechen war, we will see mass deaths of civilians. That is the fear," MRG Executive Director Mark Lattimer told Reuters.

Rights groups accused Russian troops of using indiscriminate force in Chechnya in the second campaign, launched by the Kremlin in 1999 to seize control from insurgents who had forced out Russian forces in a war in the mid-1990s.

Still low-level insurgency continues in these Muslim states controlled by Russia.


Agencies

Last Mod: 27 Nisan 2010, 16:26
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