6-year-old boy killed in a police sweep near Chechnya

Russian security forces shot and killed a 6-year-old boy Friday while conducting a sweep for suspected rebels in a volatile region neighboring Chechnya, the victim's family said.

The region's chief prosecutor, Yuri Turygin, said in a statement that the boy was killed in a skirmish between security forces and militants hiding in the house, but he did not say which side had fired the fatal shot. The family insisted no gunmen were in the house.

Ramzan Amriyev told The Associated Press that a special commando unit surrounded his house in the village of Chemulga in the province of Ingushetia early Friday, knocked down the door and put him, his wife and their four children face down on the floor.

The security force troops then opened fire over their heads on other rooms in the house, Amriyev said. When the shooting ended, they found their 6-year-old son, Rakhim, dead with a gunshot wound to the head.

The security forces said the boy was killed by a bullet that ricocheted, but his relatives insisted it was a deliberate murder.

After the shooting, police kept the half-dressed Amriyevs and their neighbors in the cold for about half an hour. "They took us out barefooted without giving us time to dress and put on our shoes," Amriyev's wife, Luiza, told the AP.

Police then rammed the Amriyev's house with their armored personnel carrier, destroying the building. Police said they suspected that a militant was hiding in the house.

Turygin, the prosecutor, said Amriyev, the owner of the house, was suspected of rebel links and a search for him was under way.

Local officials and witnesses countered that claim. Amriyev openly spoke to an Associated Press reporter beside the ruins of his home several hours after his son was killed.

His brother, Aslan, who heads the village administration, said the special forces urged him to tell local residents that they were fired upon from Amriyev's house. When he refused, they threatened to shoot him.

The regional branch of Russia's Interior Ministry refused comment.

Large-scale battles in Chechnya, which was devastated by two separatist wars since 1994, ended years ago, but militants have continued regular hit-and-run raids on police and officials in the region and neighboring North Caucasus provinces.

Ingushetia, which borders Chechnya to the west, has been particularly restive recently, with militants attacking police and other officials. Authorities increased police and military presence in the region and launched regular security sweeps that rights groups said were fraught with abuses against civilians.


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