MOSCOW : Unidentified gunmen on Tuesday assassinated the top regional security official in Russia’s violence-plagued Caucasus region of Ingushetia as he was being driven to work, investigators said.
Akhmed Kotiev, head of Ingushetia’s Security Council, was killed when gunmen opened fire on his car in an attack that also claimed the life of his driver, the Russian Investigative Committee said in a statement.
The attack took place at around 7:30 am (0330 GMT) close to the village of Nizhnie Achaluki in Ingushetia, the statement said.
Kotiev’s driver died on the spot while the security official succumbed to his wounds in a hospital, investigators said.
“All possible theories are being looked at but priority is being given to his professional activities,” they said.
The head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov swiftly condemned the attack which he said was related to Kotiev’s work to end the violent insurgency against security forces in the region.
He said Kotiev had been particularly active in seeking to encourage members of the Islamist underground to return to a normal life, a relatively novel tactic by the authorities who have long only used strongarm tactics against militants.
“His work was indeed hugely useful, (it) was successful,” Yevkurov said in comments released by his office.
“Akhmed Kotiev was not scared of openly expressing his opinion to former members of illegal armed groups and their relatives,” he said in the statement.
“To find those who committed this murder will be a matter of honour.”
As a result of Kotiev’s work, more than 60 people wanted for various crimes gave themselves up to the authorities, Yevkurov’s office said.
Around 50 of them were “former members of the criminal underground and their accomplices”.
Like other largely Muslim regions of Russia’s Northern Caucasus, the pro-Kremlin authorities in Ingushetia have been fighting an insurgency that claims dozens of lives every year.
Analysts have long suggested the insurgency is not only fuelled by the growing popularity of fundamentalism but also rampant unemployment which encourages young adults to turn towards extremism.
Igushetia’s leader Yevkurov himself fell victim to the violence plaguing the Caucasus when his motorcade was bombed in 2009.
The decorated former paratroop commander, who sustained serious head injuries, was appointed by the Kremlin in 2008 to halt the militant violence and also to tackle endemic corruption in Ingushetia.
The Kremlin has repeatedly talked tough over the Caucasus unrest but the near-daily attacks have shown no signs of abating.
Top rebel Doku Umarov in July called for militants to stage attacks against a range of targets that include the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.
Sochi is located in the immediate proximity to the Caucasus which also includes the regions of Dagestan and Chechnya where the Kremlin fought two separatist wars over the past 20 years.