Russia captures one in hunt for 'Robin Hood' vigilantes

10th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Thursday captured one of a gang of anti-police vigilantes in a massive hunt for the armed group suspected of killing one policeman in a series of attacks in the Far East.

"As part of a special operation, police on June 10 detained a member of a criminal gang, suspected of attacking police," investigators said in a statement.

The gang of at least five men -- whom the Russian media have dubbed Robin Hoods -- is suspected of three attacks on police that killed one and wounded three others, apparently motivated by a grudge against the force.

More than 150 policemen have been deployed in the manhunt in the far eastern Primorye region, a local security services source told the RIA Novosti news agency.

Russian television showed helicopters searching the forested region, while police in flak jackets set up road blocks to check cars.

In a first attack on May 27, a policeman was stabbed to death while on night duty. The attackers then ransacked the rural police station, stealing handcuffs and uniforms.

In the latest attack Tuesday, the gang fired at two traffic policemen, wounding them. The attackers wore camouflage and wielded automatic weapons, according to Russian media.

The gang is also linked to third attack on a police car on May 29 that left one officer with gun shot wounds to his face.

Several of the gang have military training and one served in Chechnya, sources in the security services were cited by RIA Novosti as saying.

The men's actions have gripped the imagination of the Russian public, with the media dubbing them "partisans" and comparing them to Robin Hood, the legendary English mediaeval outlaw said to have robbed the rich and given to the poor.

Over 71 percent of callers to the Echo of Moscow radio said the attackers were "Robin Hoods" compared to 29 percent who called them mere bandits, during a phone-in Wednesday.

Such public support underlines what critics say is near-daily abuse of office by the police force, whose officers are regularly accused of violent crime and bribe-taking.

© 2010 AFP

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