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MOSCOW: Gunmen shot dead a Muslim religious leader in Russia’s Dagestan region yesterdayin 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 in Dagestan following a rise in tension between moderate and more radical Muslims in the southern Russian republic.
Unidentified gunmen opened fire on Ibragimov 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 the gunshot wounds,” the committee said in a statement. Russian news agencies said the gunmen escaped in a car.
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. Russia’s most senior Islamic cleric warned in August that there was a danger of civil war in Dagestan, which is a few hundred kilometres from Sochi where Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics.