Ex-mayor of Chechen town shot dead after human rights outcry

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The Independent Online

Gunmen wearing masks and armed with automatic weapons raided the house of a former Chechen mayor and shot her dead, according to a Chechen government official and Russian news reports yesterday.

Gunmen wearing masks and armed with automatic weapons raided the house of a former Chechen mayor and shot her dead, according to a Chechen government official and Russian news reports yesterday.

Malika Umazheva was found dead in her home on the outskirts of Grozny, the Chechen capital, the official in the pro-Moscow Chechen administration said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The gunmen have not been caught or identified.

ITAR-Tass news agency, citing Mrs Umazheva's neighbour, reported she had been shot three times in the head.

Mrs Umazheva had headed the local administration in Alkhan-Kala, a Chechen town that human rights groups say was the scene of a brutal security "sweep" by Russian federal forces earlier this year. She gave up the mayor's post about a month ago.

Meanwhile, fighting continued in Chechnya. Six Russian servicemen were killed and six wounded in attacks across the region yesterday, the Chechen government official said. Russian forces killed one rebel.

Russian artillery shelled suspected rebel bases in the Achkhoi-Martan, Vedeno, Itum-Kale and Nozhai-Yurt districts, the official said. At least 240 Chechens had been detained since Saturday by federal troops in "mopping-up" operations in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains and in the capital, he added.

Russian "sweeps" through Chechnya have provoked allegations of widespread torture and killing of civilians. Russian officials say the operations are necessary to root out rebels. They deny widespread human rights abuses.

A respected Russian human rights group, Memorial, has said that during a "mopping-up operation" in Alkhan-Kala in late April, at least three civilians were killed and another four disappeared. (AP)

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