Chechnya homes targeted after Grozny militant attack

The inside of a Chechen house, attacked by unknown assailants
Image caption The BBC visited some of the attacked homes in the village of Yandi

Homes have been set on fire after Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov called for the punishment of relatives of Islamist militants in response to a deadly attack on the capital Grozny.

Masked men targeted houses in the village of Yandi, days after rebel gunmen launched a night-time attack on a media building and a school.

Fourteen police officers and at least nine militants were killed in the raid.

An Islamist group said it was avenging security force attacks on Muslim women.

Chechnya's controversial leader has suppressed rebel activity in the southern Russian republic since Russian forces ousted the separatist government there at the beginning of the century.

In the aftermath of the 4 December assault on Grozny, the worst violence in the capital for some time, Mr Kadyrov singled out militants' families, saying that those who helped it happen or failed to stop it would be "held harshly accountable".

Parents and neighbours would have to shoulder responsibility for the attacks and punishing them was in line with the "norms of Islam", he said.

Image caption Masked men lit the buildings from the inside, according to rights groups

At the scene: Oleg Boldyrev, BBC, Chechnya

The streets look empty in Yandi, the Chechen village where several homes have been burnt to the ground. But they are being closely monitored.

Within five minutes of entering a courtyard in one of the burnt-out houses, an armoured jeep with armed men inside stopped at the gate. Our papers were thoroughly checked.

Inside the house we found rooms blackened by fire. Half-burnt furniture and clothing were strewn around.

We spoke to a woman who owns one of the houses. Her son, she said, had left to join the rebels two years ago. His name was not among the list of militants who attacked Grozny on 4 December but several of the militants' bodies have still not been identified.

Her son's story is typical. According to the mother, he was detained twice, had been sentenced two times and tortured on a number of occasions. She believes these were the reasons why he decided to join the rebels.

No peace for Chechen villagers

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Media captionFootage shows a publishing house in flames following the attack by militants

Six homes were destroyed, according to civil rights group Memorial.

Four homes were burned down in the village of Yandi, an hour's drive from Grozny, and human rights groups said the incident looked like an official raid. Masked men had arrived in a dozen vehicles and set the buildings alight from the inside, they said.

Image copyright AP
Image caption A publishing house was gutted in last week's fighting

Activist Sergei Babinets said there were also reports of similar incidents in other Chechen towns. Amnesty International said punishing relatives was a flagrant violation of international law and urged Russia to investigate what had happened.

The publishing house, where both Chechen and federal Russian media had offices, was gutted in the fighting as was a nearby school, although there were no children there at the time.

Mr Kadyrov blamed the attack on Chechen rebel figure Aslan Byutukayev, an associate of Doku Umarov, an infamous rebel leader believed to have been killed earlier this year.

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