Chechen strongman says Danish groups banned over prophet drawings

Chechnya's acting prime minister announced a ban Monday on all Danish organizations because of the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, a decision that could affect one of the largest aid groups operating in the war-ravaged region.

"As for Danish organizations that are present (in Chechnya), we will no longer allow them," Ramzan Kadyrov, a widely feared strongman who is now the No. 2 figure in the Russian region's Kremlin-backed administration, said in Moscow in comments broadcast by NTV television.

Kadyrov accused Denmark of supporting terrorists and said Danish groups were being banned from Chechnya because the caricatures insulted Islam. "They played on the feelings of 1.5 billion people. This is the most sensitive issue for Muslims."

The warning drew a cautious response from the Danish Refugee Council, an aid group that has been operating in Russia's restive North Caucasus for seven years and distributes food to 250,000 people in the region monthly _ most of them in Chechnya.

"We are in the North Caucasus because of the humanitarian needs there," the head of the organization's international department, Arne Vaagen, said by telephone from Denmark. "That is our objective, and I hope we will be able to continue to fulfill this objective", reports AP.


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