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Top Chechen official claims blood feud against blogger

MOSCOW (AP) — The influential speaker of Chechnya's parliament has declared a blood feud against a popular exiled blogger in what appears to be another example of intimidation of critics in Chechnya. Magomed Daudov, a close ally of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, on Saturday called blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov "an enemy to me and my brothers" after Abdurakhmanov criticized Kadyrov's late father, the former Chechen leader, on his YouTube channel.

In a video published last week, Abdurakhmanov called Akhmat Kadyrov, who switched sides in Russia's separatist wars in Chechnya in the 1990s, "a traitor" of the Chechen people. Daudov's response, in Chechen, was translated into Russian and reported on Tuesday by several Russian news outlets.

During a live broadcast on his Instagram which is now unavailable, Daudov said that he is "not going to kill" the blogger but pledged to track him down and retaliate. "Let's settle this according to Muslim laws," the official said. "From now on, when you go to bed, make sure that you lock the door with a key. When you go outside, be vigilant. If you get a kick in the back, know that it's no accident."

Speaking from Poland, Abdurakhamnov said on Tuesday that he does not feel safe due to his complicated, ongoing asylum case although he now lives far from Chechnya. "I take Daudov's words very seriously," he told The Associated Press. "He is a person who has the power to follow through on his threats."

Abdurakhmanov, 32, who fled Chechnya in 2015, is seeking asylum in Poland, from where he continues to criticize Kadyrov and his rule. His YouTube channel, which has over 140,000 subscribers, focuses on human right violations and endemic corruption in this predominantly Muslim region in Russia's North Caucasus.

With his first asylum application rejected, and his second case hanging in the balance, Abdurakhmanov is now facing deportation from Poland, despite strong opposition from human rights activists who warn he will face torture or death if he returns to Chechnya.

This is not the first time Daudov has publicly threatened the blogger. Last year, he allegedly phoned Abdurakhmanov to try to coax and threaten him to return to the Chechen capital, Grozny. The blogger later released the recordings of his conversation with Daudov.

The speaker of the Chechen parliament has been described as Kadyrov's right-hand man and has been named as one of the main perpetrators of the 2017 crackdown on gay people in Chechnya. He and other Chechen authorities denied the crackdown ever happened.

International rights groups have accused Kadyrov and his security forces of extrajudicial arrests, torture and killings. Kadyrov has denied these claims. In 2016, Kadyrov warned in a report broadcast on Chechen state television that any Chechen residents who fled abroad would pay dearly for their criticisms of his rule if they return home.

Asked about Daudov's threat, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday said that there is "no such thing" as blood feuds in Russian law, although it is still widespread in Chechnya, but stopped short of directly criticizing the Chechen official.

This story has been corrected to give Daudov's first name as Magomed, not Magomedov.

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