NAZRAN: 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. (0430 GMT) as Yevkurov traveled outside the Ingush regional center, Nazran, said Ingush Interior Ministry spokeswoman Madin Khadziyeva.

He was hospitalized in unknown condition, she said. Federal Emergency Situations Ministry officials said he was in critical condition.

Federal investigators said a car that was parked on the side of the road detonated just as Yevkurov's armored car passed.

Several other people were wounded or killed in the attack, federal investigators said. ITAR-Tass and Interfax said three bodyguards were killed, including Yevkurov's brother.

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.

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.