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The BBC's Paul Wood
"This was a case of summary execution"
 real 28k

Jonathan Charles in Grozny
"Anyone who got in their way was killed"
 real 28k

Paul Wood
"Soldiers had gone on a killing and looting spree"
 real 28k

Monday, 20 December, 1999, 18:08 GMT
'Village massacre' near Grozny

Earlier unconfirmed reports spoke of atrocities in Russian-held territory

Villagers in Chechnya have been giving details of an alleged massacre by Russian troops as they tightened their grip on the area around the capital, Grozny.

Battle for the Caucasus
Chechens said 41 civilians were killed by soldiers after the village of Alkhan-Yurt was largely destroyed by Russian bombardment.

The Russian Defence Ministry has denied a massacre took place in the village.

Details of the alleged massacre emerged as federal troops reportedly clashed with rebels on the outskirts of the capital Grozny.

Late on Monday, the Defence Ministry said Russian troops had taken control of the civilian airport on the outskirts of Grozny.

"Severny [Northern] airport is fully under control," the ministry said.

Summary executions

Chechens told the BBC that villagers were summarily executed in Alkhan-Yurt, a few kilometres outside the capital, when it fell into Russian hands in the first two weeks of December.

Chechen businessman, Malak Sidulayev, who is working with Moscow against the Islamic hardliners, said: "They killed people, they looted houses. Mostly it was done by mercenaries on the Russian side.

One man said that six of his neighbours had been beheaded and their ears cut off
The BBC's Paul Wood

"They didn't just kill people, they killed livestock as well - everything that was alive," he said

The BBC correspondent Paul Wood, who visited the village, said he had heard heart-breaking testimony from people who survived the Russian occupation.

He was told by local people that Russian troops threw grenades into cellars knowing that civilians were sheltering there.

The witnesses said that soldiers rampaged though the village, stealing and killing people who got in their way or just because they felt like it.

Tearful residents spoke of the discovery of decapitated corpses, and of grenades being tossed into cellars.

The Bombardment intensifies as Russia builds up forces outside Grozny

Our correspondent said Alkhan-Yurt is in a region loyal to Moscow and not a place where you would expect Islamic militants to be garrisoned. He said the soldiers' actions were criminal - a war crime in effect.

Mr Sidulayev said his bodyguards detained the Russian colonel and his deputy whose men had allegedly carried out the attacks, and handed them over to the Russian authorities.

The allegations are supported by statements from refugees given to the US-based Human Rights Watch.

The refugees said Russian soldiers had forced them to burn bodies, disposing of the evidence.

No physical evidence has been uncovered on the ground to support the claims, but the reports are likely to intensify Western pressure on Moscow to halt the offensive and call a ceasefire.

Western pressure on Moscow has focused on civilian suffering

Click here to see a map of Grozny and surrounding areas

Fighting continued to the north, south and east of Grozny on Monday, while jets and artillery bombarded the city and several villages to the south.

Officials at the Russian military headquarters at Mozdok, North Ossetia, told the French news agency AFP that heavy fighting was raging in the southern district of Chernorechiye, which it said was partially under Russian control.

Russian commanders told the Itar-Tass news agency that Chechen fighters had been pushed into the mountains in the south.

However the extent of the fighting is not clear and the rebels say they still are able to supply fighters in the capital.

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See also:
20 Dec 99 |  Europe
Eyewitness: Anger and despair at Alkhan-Yurt
19 Dec 99 |  Europe
Eyewitness: Undercover in Chechnya
16 Dec 99 |  Europe
Chechnya: A conflict in pictures
18 Dec 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
The pride of the bear
17 Dec 99 |  Europe
Getting into Chechnya
16 Dec 99 |  Europe
Georgia facing 'humanitarian crisis'
16 Dec 99 |  Europe
Chechnya's voter appeal

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