Ingushetia minister assassinated

MOSCOW: A minister in Russia's turbulent Ingushetia region was shot dead Wednesday in a brazen early morning attack by unknown armed men who burst into his office, officials said.

Ingushetia Construction Minister Ruslan Amerkhanov was killed at point-blank range in his office in the Ingush administrative capital of Magas, in the latest attack on a top official in the region on the last weeks.

"The construction minister has been shot dead in his office," Madina Khadziyeva, spokeswoman for Ingushetia's interior ministry, told AFP.

Overwhelmingly Muslim Ingushetia and other regions in Russia's northern Caucasus are battling Islamist militants who are waging a low-level but increasingly deadly insurgency against the pro-Kremlin local authorities.

The RIA Novosti mews agency quoted an interior ministry source as saying that the attack was carried out by two men in camouflage brandishing automatic weapons and pistols.

"After the attack they drove from the ministry in an unknown direction" in a Russian-made car, the source added.

"A search operation is in progress to identify and arrest the killer," the head of the Ingushetia security council Aleksei Vorobyev told the ITAR-TASS news agency.

Ingushetia has become one of the most violent regions in Russia, with attacks on security forces taking place on an almost daily basis and officials also targeted with increasing frequency.

Ingush leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov -- appointed by the Kremlin last year to pacify the restive region -- was badly wounded in a June 22 car bombing that left him in a coma.

He was rushed to a Moscow hospital but on Monday was transferred to a sanatorium after apparently recovering and is expected to return to work soon.

On June 10, Aza Gazgireyeva, the deputy head of Ingushetia's supreme court was killed when gunmen opened fire on her car.

Meanwhile, other regions of the Caucasus have been hit by a spate of killings that have raised concerns about the stability of the entire area.

The chief of Russian NGO Let's Save the Generation, Zarema Sadulayeva, and her husband were found shot dead in Chechnya Tuesday after being abducted, their bodies stuffed into a car boot.

Their murder came less than a month after Natalya Estemirova, one of the best known activists in Chechnya, was killed in similar circumstances.

In a separate killing, Malik Akhmedilov, a journalist in the nearby Caucasus region of Dagestan was found dead Tuesday on the outskirts of the local capital Makhachkala after being shot in the stomach.