Medvedev stern 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
A car bomb exploded as the president of the troubled Russian region of Ingushetia passed by in his convoy Monday morning, critically wounding him and killing or wounding several others, officials said.
Yunus Bek Yevkurov was the third top official to be wounded or killed in Ingushetia in the past three weeks and the fourth in Russia's turbulent North Caucasus this month.
The explosion occurred around 8:30 a.m. as Yevkurov traveled outside the Ingush regional center, Nazran, said Ingush Interior Ministry spokeswoman Madin Khadziyeva.
Federal Emergency Situations Ministry officials said he was in critical condition. Yevkurov's spokesman Kaloi Akhilgov said he suffered a serious concussion and broken ribs, but his life was not danger. He refused to comment on Russian media reports that Yevkurov was being urgently flown to Moscow for treatment.
Federal investigators said a car that was parked on the side of the road detonated just as Yevkurov's armored car passed. However, Russian media, citing unnamed police officials, said a person maneuvered around a police escort car and drove his car directly into the convoy and then detonated it. The report could not be immediately confirmed.
Three bodyguards were wounded in the attack, Akhilgov said; one was in critical condition.
Ingushetia is home to hundreds of refugees from the wars in Chechnya, to the south, and is one of Russia's poorest regions. Like other North Caucasus regions, it has seen an alarming spike in violence in recent years.
Much of the violence is linked to the two separatist wars that ravaged Chechnya over the past 15 years, but persistent poverty, corruption, feuding ethnic groups and the rise of radical Islam also are blamed.
On June 10, gunmen killed the region's deputy chief Supreme Court justice opposite a kindergarten in Nazran as she dropped her children off. Three days later, the region's former deputy prime minister was gunned down as he stood outside his home in Nazran.
On June 5, the top law enforcement officer of another North Caucasus region, Dagestan, was killed by a sniper as he stood outside a restaurant where a wedding was taking place.
That killing prompted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to travel to Dagestan to showcase the Kremlin's campaign to bring calm to the North Caucasus.
After meeting top security officials in Moscow Monday, Medvedev linked the attack to federal and local efforts to calm Ingushetia.
"The president of Ingushetia has done a lot to bring order and but also to bring a civil peace to the region. The bandits actively dislike this," he said in televised comments. "Of course everything that has happened is a consequence of the strengthening of the position of the administration and their work in all forms."
Yevkurov was appointed president in October after the Kremlin forced out the region's longtime leader Murat Zyazikov. A former KGB agent, Zyazikov was widely reviled by many Ingush for constant security sweeps and widespread abductions of civilians by law enforcement officers.
Suicide bombings have been rare in Russia in the last few years - the most recent occurring in May when a person detonated explosives outside police headquarters in the Chechen capital Grozny, killing four police officers and wounding five.
If confirmed as a suicide bombing, the attack would be a major escalation of the attacks hitting police and government officials in the North Caucasus and more evidence of the effectiveness of the attackers.
Akhilgov noted that Monday was the fifth anniversary of the brazen nighttime attacks on police and government in Nazran and other parts of Ingushetia. Nearly six dozen people - most of them police - died in the June 2004 attacks, which were planned by the late Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev.