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Video Shows Masked Assailants Storming NGO Office

The attack on a leading rights group in Chechnya came during a protest condemning the organization in the capital of Grozny on Wednesday.
Screenshot via YouTube

A group of masked men armed with hammers stormed and destroyed the office of leading Chechnyan rights group Committee Against Torture (CAT) during a protest condemning the organization in the capital Grozny on Wednesday.

Members of CAT live tweeted the incident, saying staff were forced to escape out a window as the assailants entered the building. Police reportedly did not respond to calls for assistance, the group said.


Oleg Khabibrakhmanov, regional coordinator for the committee, told the Associated Press that his colleagues in Grozny called police immediately but none arrived.

"Our conclusion is that they left us up for slaughter," said Khabibrakhmanov, who was in touch with colleagues in Grozny.

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Video shot from the outside of the office block shows masked men on the balcony smashing a security camera as crowds below cheered. In another clip, loud banging sounds can be heard emanating from the building.

CAT is one of two independent rights groups still operating in the volatile region in the North Caucasus, which is situated in the southwest of Russia. Moscow is currently fighting an ongoing insurgency in the mostly-Muslim area against forces that seek to establish an Islamist state there.

Chechnya under Russian-appointed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, tolerates little dissent.  Authorities employ heavy-handed tactics and violence to silence political opposition. Wednesday's protest was reportedly set off by the CMO's alleged inaction in the police killing of a Chechen man, Dzhambulat Dadaev. Grozny-TV state television channel also reported Wednesday that "public organizations picketed" the office "to protest against the politicization of human rights activities."

On April 19, police from the neighboring Russian Stavropol region entered Grozny to retrieve Dadaev, a 42-year-old businessman who was reportedly on a federal wanted list for causing grievous bodily harm. Officers fatally shot the man after he drove his car into a police vehicle in a parking lot in an attempt to escape, Russian state media reported.


Kadyrov was outraged to learn about the shooting, which he said was conducted without the approval of Chechen authorities. The Russian Interior Ministry said the Stavropol police notified Chechen counterparts of the operation, who in turn offered assistance.

The relationship with Moscow has been further strained in recent weeks after ethnic Chechens tied to members of Kadyrov's security forces were charged with the murder of Kremlin opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow in February.

Related: Plot Thickens as Suspect Who Said He Killed Boris Nemtsov Retracts Confession

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Wednesday condemned the attack on the Chechen-based rights group, which it called Joint Mobile Group (JMG), saying it was the second time their offices have been attacked in six months. HRW claimed that Kadyrov had accused the JMG "of conspiring to destroy their own office to demonize the government and attract attention of foreign media and donor organizations."

"There is little doubt that the local authorities are doing nothing to protect these courageous human rights defenders and would rather see them leave Chechnya, leaving victims of abuses without protection," HRW's Europe and Central Asia director, Hugh Williamson, said in a statement.

Watch the VICE News documentary, "Russia's Ghost Army in Ukraine." 

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