Chechnya's Kadyrov calls for crackdown on sorcery

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MOSCOW (AP) — Sorcerers, psychics, and faith healers may be on the way out in Chechnya, where the leader of the mountainous, overwhelmingly Muslim region in Russia's Caucasus has ordered a crackdown on the practices.

Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov called on Chechens to steer clear of "charlatans" claiming to have magic powers, whom he accused of exploiting people's sufferings for money.

Kadyrov said at a meeting with municipal leaders in Grozny, the capital, on Saturday that "turning to wizards and false healers won't bring them any relief and is banned by Islam," according to a statement from the Chechen government. He went on to threaten that anyone engaging in such practices would feel the force of the region's feared security services.

Though Kadyrov is taking a hard line on "forgers" who "discredit Islam," he has been eager to promote Islamic mysticism since he became president in 2005. Folk belief is widespread in Chechnya, which many locals believe is a hotbed for Islamic spirits called djinns drawn there by the destruction from the wars, which killed tens of thousands and reduced much of the region to rubble.

Kadyrov was the driving force behind the Center for Islamic Medicine in Grozny, the largest Islamic folk hospital in Europe where healers perform djinn exorcisms by reading Quranic verses aloud. Over 130,000 people, or one tenth of the entire population, were treated there between its opening in 2008 and November 2011, according to Chechen government figures.

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