AFP - The leader of Russia's Ingushetia region, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, was gravely wounded Monday in an assassination attempt that left three of his bodyguards dead, officials said.
"An attempt was carried out on the life of president Yevkurov. He is currently in a serious condition," a spokesman for the president told AFP, adding the attack took place at around 8:30 am (0430 GMT).
The Ingush leader's convoy was hit by a roadside explosion as it travelled past, the ITAR-TASS and Interfax news agencies reported, adding that three bodyguards had lost their lives.
According to some reports, the president's brother Uvais was among the dead. All the security forces in the region have been put on high alert, reports said.
ITAR-TASS said Yevkurov had been hospitalised in a "very serious condition" and a team of doctors were being flown out to the mountainous Caucasus region from Moscow.
A predominantly Muslim region that shares close cultural and linguistic ties with Chechnya, Ingushetia has over the last years been fighting an Islamist insurgency that has cost the lives of dozens of security personnel.
The attack comes after Moscow this year ended a 10-year "counter-terrorist" operation in Chechnya -- battered by two separatist wars after the fall of Communism -- saying stability had returned to the war-torn region.
Only this month, gunmen shot dead an Ingush ex-deputy prime minister, Bashir Aushev, in the main city Nazran.
Ingushetia became a republic within Russia in 1992, It has a close-knit population of over 450,000 that is based around tribal families.
Officials say a half dozen underground extremist groups are lurking in Ingushetia's mountains and thick forests, emerging only to replenish supplies and stage attacks against police.