Chechnya tells police to shoot people in balaclavas

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The Independent Online

Chechnya's Moscow-friendly authorities have ordered anyone wearing a mask or a balaclava to be shot on sight after an incident in which separatist rebels infiltrated the capital Grozny disguised as mask-wearing policemen.

Chechnya's Moscow-friendly authorities have ordered anyone wearing a mask or a balaclava to be shot on sight after an incident in which separatist rebels infiltrated the capital Grozny disguised as mask-wearing policemen.

The edict was introduced ahead of Sunday's presidential election which is expected to be won by Alu Alkhanov, the former interior minister and the Kremlin's candidate of choice. He faces no real opposition.

The elections were called after the previous president Akhmad Kadyrov was killed in a bomb explosion as he reviewed a military parade in Grozny in May. Separatist rebels claimed responsibility.

Security in the troubled region has been stepped up to unprecedented levels after the apparent bombing on Tuesday of two Russian airliners.

The Acting Interior Minister, Ruslan Alkhanov, a relative of the presidential candidate, said the move to ban masks was essential. "The majority of crimes are committed by people who hide their faces behind masks and the population can't understand who they are dealing with, law enforcement officers or bandits. Law and order personnel have no business hiding their faces if they are acting lawfully."

He had signed an order, he added, "to shoot to kill anyone who appears in Grozny or other populated areas wearing a mask". The decision follows a raid on Grozny by rebels which unconfirmed reports say left up to 70 people dead. Dressed as mask-wearing policemen the rebels set up fake checkpoints, murdering anyone they found carrying security ID.

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