Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 16:07 UK

Ingushetia abuses 'may spark war'

Police investigate the site of a blast in Nazran, Ingushetia. Photo: July 2008
Attacks against security forces are on the rise in Ingushetia

Russia's southern republic of Ingushetia is verging on civil war, a human rights group says, accusing officials of state-sponsored terror.

The Moscow Helsinki Group says the federal authorities in the Caucasus republic are engaged in kidnappings, torture and extra-judicial killings.

The authorities say they are fighting a war against terrorism.

Attacks against security forces - often carried out by Islamist militants - have intensified in Ingushetia.

Violence in the predominantly Muslim republic started during the war in neighbouring Chechnya in the late 1990s, when armed separatists began attacking government targets.

'Fear creates rebellion'

The Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) presented its findings on Tuesday, following a recent visit to Ingushetia by several members of the group.

Ingushetia map

"What's happening there is unthinkable and shouldn't happen in a country which respects the rule of law," MHG president Lyudmila Alexeyeva said at a news conference in Moscow.

The group directly accused the Kremlin-backed authorities in the tiny republic of engaging in state-sponsored terror.

"In Ingushetia, they arrive at people's homes, some are taken away, others are killed right away, there is torture. These actions by the authorities can never be justified in the name of fighting terrorism," Ms Alexeyeva said.

Another MHG member warned that "civil war could break out" in the republic.

"One part of the population is keeping quiet, but another part is taking up the fight. Fear creates rebellion, the federal government takes responsibility for that," Valery Borshchev said.

Armed separatist groups began attacking government targets in Ingushetia in the late 1990s.

The authorities have responded by rounding up hundreds of young men - many complain of beatings and torture, others have never been seen again, the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Moscow reports.

Magomed Yevloyev (photo from Russian news website
Mr Yevloyev had run a website, reporting alleged rights abuses

Earlier this month, security forces in Ingushetia were reported to have broken up an anti-government protest in the main city of Nazran after the death of a prominent local human rights journalist, Magomed Yevloyev, in police custody.

Mr Yevloyev was arrested in August and later shot after getting off a plane on a flight from Moscow.

Police say he was shot by accident while trying to grab a policeman's gun.

Regions and territories: Ingushetia
12 Mar 08 |  Country profiles

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