Gunmen kill Ingushetia opposition leader, agencies report

An opposition leader in Russia's restive North Caucasus has been shot dead by unknown gunmen, Russian news agencies reported.


AFP - Unknown gunmen killed a local opposition leader from Ingushetia on Sunday, Russian news agencies reported, in the latest attack in the increasingly volatile North Caucasus region.

Maksharip Aushev, former owner of the dissident webpage, died at the wheel of his car in an attack by unknown assailants in the early hours of Sunday, Interfax reported, citing a local government source.

"As a result of the gunfire, Aushev, who was driving the car, was killed on the spot. A passenger in the car was hospitalised," the source said.

Local officials later confirmed the attack, on a road outside the town of Nalchik, as Aushev was paying a visit to the neighboring region of Kabardino-Balkaria.

Russian authorities have opened an investigation, public prosecutor official Marina Gridneva was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

Ingushetia's president Yunus-Bek Yevkurov called Aushev's murder "a heinous crime" aimed at destablising the region.

Aushev was a fierce critic of corruption under the republic's former president, Murat Zyazikov, who was sacked by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last year.

Yevkurov, who has vowed to sweep away endemic graft, and who was himself the target of a bomb attack in June, enjoyed the support of Aushev and other local opposition leaders.

Alexander Cherkasov, from the human rights group Memorial, told Echo of Moscow radio that Aushev had received threats. "In recent weeks, he was afraid of an act of revenge by the secret services," he said.

Tatiana Lochkina, director of Human Rights Watch in Moscow, told Interfax that the killing "illustrates very clearly the atmosphere of impunity" in the region.

Participating in opposition politics or defending basic freedoms in the North Caucasus has become "almost a form of suicide," she added.

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