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

Monday, 20 December, 1999, 16:02 GMT
Eyewitness: Anger and despair at Alkhan-Yurt

Russians have been pounding Chechnya for weeks


BBC correspondent Paul Wood was one first Westerners to reach Alkhan-Yurt, the town where the Chechens say that more than 40 civilians were killed by Russian soldiers.

On the muddy main street of Alkhan-Yurt, you are immediately surrounded by Chechen women in tears, anxious to tell what happened to their town.

Battle for the Caucasus
Even before they begin their stories, it is clear Alkhan-Yurt has been through a terrible ordeal.

Most of the buildings have been flattened and none is left unscarred by bullet or bomb. But it is what happened after the Russians concluded their artillery attack and moved in on the ground which caused such anger and despair here.

One man told me how he had found the corpses of six of his neighbours. They had been beheaded, their ears cut for good measure as well.

Grandmother 'begged for her life'


Russians holding chunks of the province
An old woman said that Russian soldiers had gone from house to house, throwing grenades into the cellars even though they knew that only civilians were present. A grandmother, she said the soldiers had made her kneel and forced her to beg for her life.

At one stage during the interviewing, a Russian soldier angrily knocked the microphone out of my hand, saying we did not have proper accreditation to be in Alkhan-Yurt.

We were in the town with the protection of a millionaire Chechen businessman, Malak Sidulayev, an ally of Moscow in the struggle against the Islamic fundamentalists in Chechnya.

Both he and some of the townspeople stressed that the alleged massacre was the work of undisciplined troops, not a deliberate policy from above.

Two colonels were said to have been placed under arrest for the actions of their men and are now being questioned.

Whoever is responsible, these new allegations of a massacre will only add to Western pressure for the Russians to call a halt to their military campaign in Chechnya.

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See also:
19 Dec 99 |  Europe
Eyewitness: Undercover in Chechnya
19 Dec 99 |  Europe
Russia tells Chechnya to surrender
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Chechnya: A conflict in pictures
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Russians 'closing in' on Grozny
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Getting into Chechnya
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Unanswered questions of Grozny battle
16 Dec 99 |  Europe
Georgia facing 'humanitarian crisis'
16 Dec 99 |  Europe
Chechnya's voter appeal

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