A series of unprovoked attacks on native Russian families living in Ingushetia, a Muslim Republic in Southern Russia, have brought hundreds of Russian security forces into the area and increased the level of carnage in recent days.
Accusations abound as to who is responsible for the killings.
Some believe the assailants are boyeviki, or Muslim rebels based in the mountains, who want to gain power in the region.
Others think the killings are organized by opponents of President Murad Zyazikov as a way to get him out of office.
For its part, the opposition points out that the killings make it easy for Zyazikov to argue that he needs to stay in office.
Everyone agrees, however, that the “brutality” of Moscow’s security forces, which have been torturing and killing alleged militants with impunity, has made things worse.
Meanwhile, in nearby Dagestan last week, attackers killed a Russian imam after he spoke out against Islamic extremism.
Rigid Muslim practices are gaining favor in neighboring Chechnya, where newly-installed President Ramzan Kadyrov has declared that female civil servants must wear headscarves to work or lose their jobs.
A Reuters news story said that Kadyrov’s positions make many Russian officials uncomfortable, but that Putin is likely to keep him in office as a reward for stamping out the separatist insurgency.
“Wave of killings fuels fear of a second Chechnya”
Observer (U.K.), September 30, 2007
“Imam killed in Russia after speaking out against Islamic militants”
Canadian Press, September 29, 2007
“Russia’s Chechnya imposes Islamic dress code”
Reuters, September 12, 2007