-- Government forces swept through villages and forests in southern Russia on Wednesday, hunting elusive bands of guerrillas who staged coordinated attacks on government installations Monday and Tuesday. Officials said the death toll had risen to about 92.
Soldiers and police conducted door-to-door searches in several areas of the Russian republic of Ingushetia, which borders the war-ravaged republic of Chechnya, demanding documents and taking away dozens of young men. Human rights groups accused authorities of rounding up people at random and beating some of them, allegations disputed by local officials who said they were simply detaining suspects.
The government operations came a day after fighters in camouflage dress rampaged through streets in Ingushetia, firing rocket-propelled grenades at police stations, taking over checkpoints and setting fire to government buildings in the biggest outbreak of fighting in the region outside of Chechnya since 1999.
With the guerrillas now back in hiding, relative calm returned to the mountainous region Wednesday as shops remained closed for mourning and dozens of families buried their dead. "Yesterday there was panic -- people were scared. By today, things have calmed down. There are a lot of funerals going on," Madina Khadiyeva, a spokeswoman for Ingushetia's Interior Ministry, said by telephone.
The only bloodshed reported Wednesday was in Chechnya, where an overnight shootout between regional security forces and rebels in the village of Avtury killed three officers and eight insurgents, according to officials.
The fighting underscored the difficulties in President Vladimir Putin's plan to declare the Chechen war over and unilaterally impose a political settlement on the region. Amnesty International released a report Wednesday that depicted what Putin calls a "normalization" program as failing, saying the situation in Chechnya was "far from normal" and spilling into Ingushetia.
The report condemned both sides for targeting civilians but singled out the disappearances of people held incommunicado by Russian forces and allegedly tortured and raped. "Such abuses, which previously occurred almost exclusively in Chechnya, are increasingly spreading across the border to neighboring Ingushetia," it said.
Such abuses fostered speculation that the latest attacks were intended as retaliation for the recent disappearances of young men in Ingushetia. The guerrillas included Ingush and Russians as well as Chechens, according to officials, who identified the leader of the assault as Magomed Yevloyev, an Ingush who has fought alongside rebels in Chechnya.
Details of the assaults remained murky. Officials increased their estimate of guerrillas involved from a low of 200 to as high as 1,000. Likewise, the fatality count rose from 57 but varied depending on the official giving the number; more than half of the dead were said to be police officers, prosecutors and Interior Ministry troops.
Khadiyeva, the Interior Ministry spokeswoman, said government forces searched the villages of Galashki and Altiyevo on Wednesday in case the attackers simply melted back into the local population: "It's possible a lot of them are still here. That's why we're conducting these document checks."
The local office of Memorial, a human rights group, said the government raids were zachistkas, or cleansing operations, aimed in part at Chechen refugees, with about 75 taken away. "They were beating them," said Yekaterina Sokirianskaya, a Memorial activist who witnessed the raids. "They were also telling them that if they don't leave the republic in two days, they would be in trouble."
Ingushetia's president, Murat Zyazikov, a former KGB general, denied that. "Some people would very much like the situation to look this way," the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. "But there are no sweep operations whatsoever. All this is just made up."