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Charity Workers Nabbed in Chechnya

October 23, 1997

MOSCOW (AP) _ Gunmen in combat fatigues kidnapped two Hungarian charity workers in the Chechen capital, officials said today.

There was no claim of responsibility for the kidnapping _ the latest in a string of abductions, mostly by groups seeking ransom.

About 20 gunmen broke into the offices of the Hungarian Ecumenical Charity Service in Grozny around midnight Wednesday and seized the men, identified as Gabor Dunai and Istvan Olah.

The organization is a branch of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches. Its volunteers were among the first to start charity work in Chechnya, along with the United Nations and the Red Cross.

The Russian Orthodox Church reported the kidnapping in a statement today, and said the charity had been helping the needy in Chechnya, ravaged by a 1994-96 war for secession from Russia.

The statement said the attackers also stole office equipment and an unidentified amount of cash.

The charity’s representative in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, said another attack by about 15 gunmen followed the kidnapping and a decision had been made to close down the mission as soon as possible, Hungarian radio reported. No details were given.

Chechnya has been awash in kidnappings and other crime since the war ended last fall, and Chechen authorities have been unable to cope with the criminal groups, many of whom target journalists and employees of foreign organizations.

Chechnya has been running its own affairs since Russian troops withdrew in late 1996 and considers itself a sovereign nation. Moscow claims the tiny Muslim republic remains a part of Russia, but has virtually no control over what happens there.

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