Norwegian journalist injured in attack

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A Norwegian journalist was reportedly the most seriously injured after masked men attacked a bus he was riding in that was bound for Chechnya late Wednesday afternoon. The group included both journalists and human rights activists on their way from the Russian republic of Ingusjetia to Grozny, and they believe the attack was planned.

Øystein Windstad, on assignment for the Norwegian magazine Ny Tid, told Norwegian media from a hospital in Ingusjetia that the bus had been forced off the road by three large vehicles as it approached the border to Chechnya. The journalists, including one from Swedish Radio and two Russians reporting for New Times and Mediazona, were covering the trip into Chechnya by a human rights group that works to prevent torture in the long-troubled republic. They were supposed to meet victims of human rights violations and family members of kidnapped activists.

15-20 masked attackers
Windstad reported that around 15-20 masked men emerged from the vehicles that had halted the bus. They were carrying clubs and immediately started smashing the windows of the bus. Then they started beating the people inside.

“It was just awful, I thought I was going to die,” Windstad told newspaper Aftenposten and several other media outlets in Norway. “They tried to drag me out of the bus.” He said they ripped off his jacket and shirt and beat him with the clubs, leaving him with serious facial injuries and multiple bruises and fractures.

Others on the bus were beaten as well, while the attackers stole their mobile telephones and reportedly yelled in Russian that they were all “traitors.” Windstad said he and the others eventually escaped out the broken windows and ran into a nearby field. After that, the attackers set the bus on fire.

Under investigation
Windstad said he’s convinced they were working for Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov, and a lawyer for the human rights group believes the same. Dmitri Utukin, who works for the organization against torture in Russia, told news bureau AFP that Chechen officials had been following the group since the journalists arrived, and that it was the third time the organization had been attacked.

He said that earlier reporting trips in the area were organized by Chechen authorities, making it difficult to shed light on the problems in Chechnya, where Kadyrov has held control with the support of Russian officials. His regime is known for brutal crackdowns on opposition to his rule.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s correspondent based in Moscow said on national radio Thursday morning that Russian authorities are investigating the attack, and that it also was receiving media coverage in Russia. The attack was quickly condemned by Norway’s national journalists’ organization (Norsk Journalistlag, NJ) and Norway’s foreign ministry was involved, with the Norwegian embassy in Moscow working to arrange safe transport for Windstad out of the area.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund