|Three suspects in Tatarstan cleric attacks killed|
In July, Tatarstan's leading Muslim cleric, Mufti Ildus Faizov, was wounded in a car bombing and his former deputy, Valiulla Yakupov, was gunned down in attacks conducted by suspected Islamists.
Two members of the Federal Security Service were killed in the fighting in Kazan along with the three
Tatarstan's Interior Ministry said the
|Attacks in Tatarstan kill cleric, injure another|
|MOSCOW -- A senior Muslim cleric was killed and another seriously injured in what appeared to be coordinated attacks Thursday in centralRussia's Tatarstan republic.|
Valiulla Yakupov, the Islamic chief ideologue in the predominantly Muslim region, was shot by gunmen several times about 10 a.m. as he was leaving his home, officials said. The injured cleric managed to make his way to his car parked nearby, where he died, Eduard Abdullin, spokesman for the Tatarstan branch of the Russian Investigative Committee, said in televised remarks.
About 15 minutes later, a bomb went off under the car of the region's Islamic leader, Mufti Ildus Faizov, who was injured when he was thrown out of the vehicle by the blast.
No group immediately took responsibility for the assaults, which experts noted were similar to attacks in the North Caucasus that claimed the lives of dozens of muftis and imams over the last decade.
Faizov had a narrow escape, as the attackers obviously "counted that he would be in the passenger seat whereas he was in the driver's seat," Abdullin said to Russia-24.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that "the culprits will be found, exposed and punished."
"This demonstrates just one more time that the situation in our country is far from ideal," said the visibly tense Russian leader as he spoke to a group of officials in televised video.
Chechen rebel commander Doku Umarov ordered militants from the Caucasus into central Russia to rouse Muslims to a holy war, the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported Thursday in an analytical piece on the religious situation in Tatarstan.The report said the newcomers prevailed in 10 of the more than 50 mosques in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, which is more than 800 miles northeast of Chechnya.
Yakupov, the slain cleric, "resolutely opposed all kinds of radical movements," said senior Islamic official Rushan Abbyasov, who is based in Moscow.
The confrontation between traditional and radical Islam is getting more intense, said Alexei Malashenko, a senior expert on Islam with the Moscow Carnegie Center, who warned against a hasty crackdown in Tatarstan.
"The latest attack -- the way it was implemented -- certainly looks as if the fire from the North Caucasus is coming up here already," Malashenko said in an interview. "But I also have a strong fear that if the state comes out to crack down on such communities in Tatarstan in full force, it may result in a backlash of violence that should be avoided by all means."
Another observer said Thursday's attacks may have had nothing to do with radical Islam, which he said is unlikely to dominate in Tatarstan.
"Tatarstan Muslim leaders tightly control the holy hajj quotas issued to Tatarstan for Mecca travels, and there is so much money involved in it," said Maxim Shevchenko, a television anchor and expert on Islam. "There are so many powerful organized crime groups in Tatarstan that I wouldn't be surprised that some of them would want to get their cut of it too."