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North Caucasus: intense Southern Chechnya fighting

Briefing notes

North Caucasus: intense Southern Chechnya fighting

6 March 2000

Shelling and intense fighting in the mountainous south of Chechnya are driving more people from their homes. Over the past week, an estimated 1,400 freshly displaced people have arrived in Ingushetia.

The border between Chechnya and Ingushetia is busy with two-way traffic as people shuttle between camps in Ingushetia and their home villages in Chechnya. But over the past week, only some 100 people a day have been returning to Chechnya to stay. Widespread destruction in Chechnya, as well as reports of beatings, detention and rape are preventing a larger return and pushing out those who had already gone back. One man who recently returned to Chechnya and fled again alleged that he had to pay a bribe to be released from a military prison camp after four days of detention and daily beatings. Testimonies of detention and violence against returnees cannot be confirmed independently but they seem to form an alarming pattern. There are also complaints of violence against civilians by rebel forces.

On Monday, up to 60 people demonstrated at the main border crossing point in Ingushetia, demanding an end to hostilities in Chechnya and a deployment of international observers there.

This morning, UNHCR's 36th convoy reached Ingushetia's capital Nazran. Last week, we sent the first aid convoy to Chechnya itself. Currently UNHCR is assessing the feasibility of further aid convoys to Chechnya.