Chechens holding 200 kidnap victims

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The Independent Online

The Russian invasion of Chechnya last October curtailed but did not end kidnappings. According to one recent estimate, some 200 kidnap victims are still being held.

The Russian invasion of Chechnya last October curtailed but did not end kidnappings. According to one recent estimate, some 200 kidnap victims are still being held.

The kidnappings took place right across the north Caucasus and into southern Russia, but the victims usually ended up being held in a cellar in Chechnya itself.

At their height, almost all Chechen officials were involved to a greater or lesser degree in the kidnap business, which was one of the few sources of money in the republic.

Although the kidnapping of foreigners made the headlines, most of those who were seized were Chechens whose captors demanded small amounts of money. Other targets were young Russian soldiers, often kidnapped far from Chechnya. They might have no money, but the kidnappers would demand a ransom from the provinces from which they came.

Russian checkpoints on the borders of Chechnya have now disrupted the kidnap business, making it difficult, though not impossible, to move captives around. The Russians also switched off the mobile phone system in Chechnya last year, making it impossible for kidnappers to telephone to demand money.

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