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Friday, 21 January, 2000, 19:34 GMT
Muslims condemn Grozny offensive

The Chechen conflict has come under fire from the Muslim world


Russia's recently intensified assault on the Chechen capital Grozny has led to renewed criticism in the media in parts of the Muslim world.

The sharper tone was particularly noticeable in the Afghan media in the wake of the decision by Afghanistan's ruling Taleban to recognise the breakaway republic as an independent state - the first government in the world to do so.
Battle for the Caucasus

Afghan radio and press outlets called on other Muslim nations to show solidarity with Chechnya's quest for freedom and criticised what they called the "barbaric Russians" for trying to stifle Islam.

"The Muslim country of Chechnya... is subject to fierce attacks by the barbaric Russians.

"The Russians can endure the independence of all the satellites of the former Soviet Union but cannot tolerate the independence of the Muslim people of Chechnya which has its own specific history and background and an entirely different culture from that of the Russians," Afghan Voice of Shari'ah radio said.

Jihad

It also criticised Moscow for failing to understand why it was defeated in the wake of its invasion of Afghanistan.

"The Russians have apparently learnt nothing from the holy jihad of the Afghan people which showed how ideological weapons can destroy what looked like a victory for technology and the military.

"The Islamic countries in the world and particularly the member states of the Islamic Conference are obliged to provide the Muslims in Chechnya with spiritual and material support," it said.

The Taleban newspaper, Etefaq-e Eslam, said the lack of international opposition to Russia's military campaign was proof of Western hostility towards Islam and its disregard for human rights.

"The silence by the world community with regard to the Chechen conflict shows that although the infidel powers are engaged in rivalries for their colonialist objectives, they are, however, united in their hostility towards Islam, and in such cases the observance of human rights means nothing to them," it said.

Tehran points to refugees' plight

Reports in the Iranian media have given details of gains and losses in the fighting but have generally refrained from criticising Russia itself.

However, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which is currently headed by Iran's President Mohammad Khatami, drew attention to the suffering of the Chechen refugees and called for new measures to resolve the issue.

"The main aim of these moves would be to draw the attention of Russian officials to a better understanding of the concerns of the Islamic world about the thousands of Chechen refugees who, in the last few months, have in practice been the main victims of the crisis in Chechnya," a commentary on Iranian radio said.

"Right from the beginning of this bloody war, because Russians were unable to differentiate between terrorists and ordinary people, the Muslim people of Chechnya have endured heavy losses in human and material terms and, with the continuation of the crisis, they are experiencing severe hardships."

Islamists critical

One Cairo-based Islamic aid organisation was more overt in its criticism.

The World Islamic Council for Call and Relief said in a statement that it condemned what it called the "use of Chechen civilians as human shields in Grozny" by Russian troops, the Egyptian news agency MENA reported.

The council appealed to Muslim countries and major powers to help bring about a halt to the fighting.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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