Witnesses and relatives say that a 30-year-old resident of Ingushetia was beaten and forced to sign a document before being taken into custody. After several days of looking for him, local authorities told the family that the man had been killed.
Russian rights group Memorial has reported that Ibragim Aliyev, detained on 8 June by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in the largest Ingush city, Nazran, has been declared dead. The authorities informed his relatives who had been trying to find out his whereabouts for days after his arrest that he was killed in an attempted to escape.
The head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, together with FSB agents, personally met Aliyev’s relatives to deliver the news.
According to Memorial, the authorities told relatives that during his questioning, Aliyev grabbed a pair of scissors and attacked one of the investigators shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’, ‘with an intent to escape’. According to Memorial, as of 14 June, his body had not been handed over to the family.
Memorial cited relatives as saying that around 50 officers were involved in detaining Aliyev at his house on 8 June. His pregnant wife and 4 children, all under the age of 5, were reportedly present at the scene.
Aliyev’s wife, Zukhra Chakhkiyeva, told Memorial that security forces did not let her approach and calm down the children, who were kept separately under the supervision of armed and masked officers for 40 minutes.
The security services had reportedly planned to detain Ibragim’s brother Bashir as well, but he managed to flee. The FSB claimed to have found a suicide letter in Bashir’s bed in which he spoke of the afterlife. They also claimed to have retrieved a ‘cylindrical flask, a pan with wires, and an object looking like an F1 grenade’ on the premises.
Relatives reported that Aliyev was thrown to the ground and beaten by approximately six men, including a man called Kirill, who was identified by others as deputy head of the local Federal Security Service department. Aliyev’s family claim he was then taken into the house and kept there for over half an hour being tortured, before being forced to sign an unidentified document and taken into custody.
The family was not able to get information about his location from the authorities for three days until being called to meet the head of Ingushetia and security services to be informed of his death.
His brother Bashir, who has an intellectual disability, was handed into the authorities by the family and remains in detention.
Counterterrorism operations and human rights
The original source of the witnesses’ accounts, advocacy group Memorial, regularly monitors the human rights situation in North Caucasus. Recent cases the organisation has worked on in the region include mass arrests and persecution of individual Muslims, as well as torture and murders in Ingushetia’s Centre for Combating Terrorism. Memorial itself has been the target of attacks, including the arson of its Nazran office in January and an assault on Daghestani office head Sirazhudin Datsiyev in March.
Local press often highlight cases from across Russia’s North Caucasus in which the guilt of suspected terrorists killed by the authorities is disputed after their deaths.
In a separate incident on 8 June, the same day Ibragim Aliyev was detained, the National Antiterrorism Committee claimed to have ‘neutralised two bandits’ in Nazran, who ‘were plotting terrorist attacks’. The committee said that two men barricaded themselves inside their house and took ‘a woman’ hostage, who later turned out to be their mother. Officials said that after over an hour and a half of unsuccessful negotiations, an anti-terrorist squad returned fire at them and killed all three in the house while taking one alive.
The head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, told the press after the operation that militants planned to carry out a terrorist attack on the eve of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan, which falls on 14–15 June this year.
However, neighbours cited by Kavkaz Realii, locals, as well as public movement Resistance of Ingushetia have disputed the official version, insisting that the family, identified as the Ozdoyevs, had no connections with terrorism and that the whole counterterror operation had been staged. An anonymous eyewitness claimed that the mother had refused to leave the house, as she expected the authorities to ‘kill her children’.
Video depicting the 8 June counterterrorism operation, with the father begging his wife and children to come out of the house (Roman Ivanov /YouTube)
Ingush human rights advocate Magomed Mutsolgov told Caucasus Times that in the wake of FIFA World Cup 2018 hosted by Russia, the local law enforcement agencies use CTOs to get better crime fight statistics, but later authorities may admit that ‘the Ozdoyev family was innocent and that abducted Ibragim Aliyev had no connection with [terrorist] underground’. ‘Abductions and extrajudicial executions will only radicalise youth in Ingushetia’, Mutsolgov argues.