Death Toll Put at 160,000 in Chechnya

About 160,000 people have died in Chechnya in the two armed conflicts over the past decade, Chechen State Council chairman Taus Dzhabrailov said Monday, Interfax reported.

Dzhabrailov said the figure included civilians and servicemen and that ethnic Chechens made up 30,000 to 40,000 of the deaths.

The figure of 160,000 dead is much higher than estimates by the Memorial human rights watchdog, which has closely monitored both conflicts in Chechnya. Memorial puts the death toll for both conflicts at no more than 75,000 civilians and no more than 14,000 servicemen. Memorial arrived at its conclusions by documenting killings and disappearances in several Chechnya districts and extrapolating the numbers on the whole region.

Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen rebel leader killed by federal special forces in March, had repeatedly said 20 percent of ethnic Chechens, or about 200,000 people, had died in the two conflicts.

Memorial activist Alexander Cherkasov said Chechen authorities had done nothing so far to establish the true number of deaths and that it was unclear how Dzhabrailov could justify his figures.

"These different numbers come from the fact that neither Chechen nor Russian officials have bothered to compile individual statistics on every victim of the conflict," Cherkasov said.

In the latest fatalities, a woman and a 12-year-old boy were killed in central Grozny on Monday when a car bomb exploded nearby, Interfax reported. Eleven other people were wounded in the explosion, which occurred near the entrance to a popular restaurant called Hollywood and about 200 meters from a heavily protected compound of government buildings.

Deputy Interior Minister Akhmed Dakayev said the boy had been helping out at a nearby gas station when the blast happened.

Dzhabrailov, who spoke at a news conference, also said that about 1,000 rebels were continuing to fight actively and that they had the support of 100 to 150 foreign mercenaries. He said the rebels had been completely cut off from foreign funding. "No one is paying money to members of illegal armed formations like before," he said.

Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev told Radio Liberty reporter Andrei Babitsky in June that he got money by threatening local officials and from sympathetic Chechens.

Dzhabrailov said more than 7,000 rebels had laid down arms over the past five years and resumed peaceful lives.

He also said unemployment in Chechnya stood at 80 percent.

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