Russia: Fifth Muslim leader gunned down
Gunmen shot dead a Muslim religious leader in Russia’s Dagestan region yesterday in an attack likely to worsen a spiral of militant violence that threatens Moscow’s hold on the restive North Caucasus.
Karimulla Ibragimov was at least the fifth Muslim leader killed this year, following a rise in tension between moderate and more radical Muslims in the southern Russian republic.
Unidentified gunmen opened fire on Mr Ibragimov, his father and brother in the town of Derbent at around 6:30am, Russia’s investigative committee said. Local officials said he had served as an imam at an unregistered mosque frequented by radical Muslims.
“All three died on the spot from gunshot wounds,” the committee, a government agency that handles criminal investigations, said in a statement.
Dagestan is at the centre of an insurgency for an Islamic state in the North Caucasus, more than a decade after Russian troops ousted a rebel government in neighbouring Chechnya and restored Moscow’s direct control.
Security analysts said the violence could be aimed at spoiling efforts to reconcile moderate and extremist Muslims, and provoke a more forceful approach by Moscow, which could further radicalise the population.
President Vladimir Putin, who, as prime minister in 1999, sent troops to Chechnya, favours a tough approach and will not let religious intolerance tear Russia apart.
Russia’s most senior Islamic cleric warned in August that there was a danger of civil war in Dagestan, which is only a few hundred miles from the city of Sochi, where Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Mr Putin has called for unity and has told security forces to outsmart and outmuscle Islamist militants to ensure the safety of the Games and other events Russia is hosting.
The head of the Dagestan region, Magomedsalam Magomedov, yesterday also pleaded for an end to violence.
“We should act against extremism and terrorism with one front, work more actively, aggressively and in a more targeted way,” he was quoted as telling a regional anti-terrorism commission.
Efforts to reconcile adherents to the mystical Sufi branch of Islam and Muslims who practise the purist Salafi version were launched after Mr Putin steered his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, into the presidency in 2008.
But security analysts say renewed violence could force a more robust approach towards religious intolerance, which could backfire by encouraging retaliation and fuelling bloodshed.
In August, a woman disguised as a pilgrim detonated a bomb strapped to her body in Dagestan, killing popular spiritual leader Said Atsayev, 74, an opponent of militant Islam.
Suicide bombers and gunmen have killed at least three other religious leaders in Dagestan this year, including another Salafi leader earlier this month.
In July, the top Muslim official in Tatarstan – about 1,240 miles from the North Caucasus – was wounded in a car-bomb attack and his deputy was shot dead the same day.
The attacks raised concerns in Moscow that militant violence could spread to Russia’s heartland, and Mr Putin flew to Tatarstan to appeal for calm.
Millions of mostly Muslim natives of Dagestan and other Caucasus provinces flooded into western Russia after the 1991 Soviet collapse.
Some have formed ethnic gangs notorious for their cruelty, and many others have been involved in violent clashes with ethnic Russian nationalists and football fans.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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