Sunday, April 09, 2006

Crackdown on Muslims Reported in South Russia
Created: 07.04.2006 13:14 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 13:14 MSK

Developments in Russia’s North Caucasian province of Adygeya caught media attention this week, as it transpired that dozens of Muslims had been detained there on Friday, March 31, as they were going to a local mosque for Friday prayers. Regnum news agency said in a report on April 7 that a week earlier dozens of Muslims were detained in Adygeya. Local residents informed the Regnum correspondent that before the prayer began all roads in the village of Novaya Adygeya were blocked by police commandoes who carried out a joint security sweep in the area with the republic’s organized crime department and FSB (internal security service) forces. A source in the Muslim community of Adygeya has reported that security services registered all believers who regularly attended prayers at the local mosque, their names, passport numbers and car license plates being included in a special list. “Two buses with SOBR (special rapid-reaction) troops were parked at the approach to the village. They only stopped the cars of Muslims who were heading to the mosque, searching them with sniffer dogs. Nobody made it to the mosque that day,” a witness told Regnum. All the believers going to the mosque that day were detained and taken to a police station in the village of Yablonovskoye. “There we were told they would break our legs if we went on attending the mosque, then they let us go,” he continued. “They made a list of our names. I can’t imagine what’s going to happen to those who are on that list.” Witnesses and detainees are convinced that the raid was aimed at intimidating local residents. Believers were arrested in the presence of a large crowd. Armed troops wearing camouflage are rare in those parts, they say. One of the believers detained last week suggested that the government was seeking to prevent locals from sending their children to the mosque. The Chechen rebel website Kavkaz-Tsentr this week linked the unexpected resignation of Adygeya leader Khazret Sovmen to the persecution of Muslims in the southern Russian republic.Officials from the FSB central office are currently in Adygeya carrying out searches and questioning people. There is concern about a possible crackdown on Muslims, Kavkaz-Tsentr said.Meanwhile, thousands of people gathered Thursday in Maikop, the capital of Adygeya, to protest Kremlin-backed plans to merge the republic with Krasnodar, as well as to protest against xenophobia, The Associated Press reported. “People have come together to show their strong disagreement with Moscow’s treatment of Adygeya as an independent subject of the [Russian] Federation,” regional presidential spokesman Abreg Chich said from Maikop. He said Adygeya’s residents were also concerned about the possible resignation of the regional president, Khazret Sovmen, who has fiercely opposed unification with Krasnodar. Chich estimated that close to 10,000 people were rallying in Maikop, but police put the number closer to 5,000.

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