December 17 in Russian history


Early in the morning, at about 3:30, ten to twenty armed masked people entered the hospital of the International Committee of the Red Cross located in village Noviye Atagi, Chechnya, and killed 6 workers of the hospital:

  • Fernanda Calado, an ICRC nurse of Spanish nationality, 49 years,
  • Ingeborg Foss, a nurse from the Norwegian Red Cross, 42 years,
  • Nancy Malloy, a medical administrator from the Canadian Red Cross, 51 years,
  • Gunnhild Myklebust, a nurse from the Norwegian Red Cross, 56 years,
  • Sheryl Thayer, a nurse from the New Zealand Red Cross, 40 years,
  • Hans Elkerbout, a construction technician from the Netherlands Red Cross, 47 years.

A seventh delegate, Christophe Hensch, was heavily wounded in the shoulder but survived.

The hospital was opened on 2 September, 1996. The chosen location was not controlled by the federal forces. Soon after it was opened, problems began. The web-site GlobalSecurity.org gives the following timeline of the preceding events (source: Chechnya. The White Book. Russian Information Centre, 2000):

  • September 17, 1996
    At 17.00, commander Khattab, accompanied by a group of his militants, enters the compound of the ICRC hospital and, using threats, demands that ICRC symbols be removed from the ICRC hospital within two days.
  • September 18, 1996
    At 14.00, Khattab accompanied by 15 armed men, enters the compound and takes a compromise decision to reduce the number of ICRC red crosses in the hospital compound.
  • September 18, 1996
    At about 20.00, a shot is fired from the road in the direction of the residence of foreign staff in front of the premises of Finnish nurse Asko Kuly.
  • September 19, 1996
    At about 20.20, there is another shot fired in the direction of Asko Kuly's premises. As reported by the village commandant, both shots appear to have been made from identical arms and one place.
  • September 26, 1996
    Magamet, commander of Novye Atagi, kidnaps from the hospital two foreign personnel, Marc Ahermann and Enzo Porcelli, whom he releases six hours later after talks with the ICRC and after the government intervenes. It seems the kidnapper was sacked from his post of village commander: but later he poses as a state security member.
  • September 25, 1996
    The Novye Atagi hospital depot is broken into and a certain amount of food stocks of foreign personnel is stolen.
  • October 25, 1996
    At about 5.00 a group of armed men enters the hospital premises for foreign staff. They attack two guards and one foreign staff member, with a gun pressed against his temple. They steal radio equipment and leave a note with threats, accusing the ICRC of spying.
    Mr Shamolt Ibragimov and interior bodies of Shali conduct an investigation. The ICRC is informed that the attack was carried out by commander Ruslan Alikhodzheu and the radios were offered for sale at the Shali market.
  • November 25, 1996
    At 8.00 a group of armed men takes away a local staff member -- ICRC interpreter Musar-el Yuskayev from the hospital. Musar returns to work the next day and says he was detained by the DGB over a criminal charge -- extortion from a resident of Starye Atagi. He says he must appear before a court in Grozny.
  • November 26, 1996
    A former local ICRC staff member, a guard named Suleiman, who was hired on the recommendation of commander Yusif and then fired for attacking a woman staff member, enters the hospital compound and strikes a foreign staffer.
  • November 27, 1996
    At around 24.00, there is an armed scuffle in front of the hospital between a group of unidentified armed men and supporters of the local commander. Things do not go so far as shooting and the groups go different ways.
  • December 16, 1996
    The ICRC chief delegate receives a letter with threats allegedly signed by the village commander and administrator.

Immediately after the murder both Chechens and Russians began their own investigations. Ond of the suspects, known under nom-de-guerre Ibn al-Khattab (or simply Khattab), refused to witness and prohibited his subjects to do so. After that, the government of the Chechen separatists proclaimed that the crime was organized by Russians. Aslan Maskhadov, the leader of the separatists, awarded Ingeborg Foss with the highest order of the Chechen republic.

In 2004 and 2005 Russian police arrested two people who allegedly participated in the crime. One of them, Adam Dzhabrailov, has confessed that he participated in the murder of three Britons, Peter Kennedy, Darren Hickey and Rudy Petschi and a New Zealander Stan Shaw in 1998. There were no news about Dzhabrailov since April 2005.

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