Official in Ingushetia shot dead


A senior official in the volatile Russian province of Ingushetia was shot dead today, police said, in the latest high-profile killing in the mainly Muslim North Caucasus.

The minister for sport in the regional administration, Ruslan Balayev, was shot dead in his car, a police source said.

Last month an assassination attempt left regional leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov gravely wounded in hospital.

"The minister was shot near Nizhny-Achaluki and died of his wounds," the source said, referring to a village 20 kilometres north of Nazran, Ingushetia's largest city.

Ingushetia has overtaken its neighbour Chechnya as the main centre of violence along Russia's turbulent southern flank.

On Wednesday the body of prominent human rights activist Natalia Estemirova was found in Ingushetia hours after she was kidnapped in Chechnya. Earlier this month nine Chechen policemen sent to help crush Ingushetia's insurgency were killed by rebels.

Analysts say Islamist insurgencies in the North Caucasus have been fuelled in recent months by new recruits bitter at economic hardship and heavy-handed anti-terror tactics used by regional leaders.

In a separate incident today, a policeman was shot dead in the Chechen capital Grozny, Interfax news agency reported, the latest in a daily stream of attacks.