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The president of the poor Russian region of Ingushetia, which borders Chechnya, was critically wounded in a suicide attack on his motorcade Monday, the fourth attempted assassination of a government official in Russia's Northern Caucasus this month.
President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, a career military intelligence officer appointed by the Kremlin last year to lead Ingushetia, was reported to be in critical condition. His brother and three bodyguards were reported killed in the blast.
Ingushetia and the neighboring region of Dagestan have been growing less stable, with the spread of Islamist resistance to Russian rule and a spike in terrorist attacks.
The Associated Press reports that the deputy head of the region's supreme court was gunned down on June 10 and that the top policeman in Dagestan was murdered on June 5. The article quotes Alexei Malashenko, an expert on the area at the Moscow Carnegie Center, saying that Islamic separatists were almost certainly behind the attack.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that rebel commander Doku Umarov, an Islamist rebel leader in Chechnya's bloody war, promised in a video released in late April to make 2009 the "year of offensives." It also points out the challenges of Mr. Yevkurov's job.
As head of one of the most unstable and impoverished republics in Russia, Yevkurov was faced with a string of seemingly impossible tasks: to eradicate the corruption and inefficiency that pervaded government structures under his loathed and compromised predecessor Murat Zyazikov; to secure the cooperation of a small but vocal political opposition alienated by the murder on August 31 of Magomed Yevloyev, owner of the independent website ingushetia.org; to turn around the republic's moribund economy… and, above all, to reduce the incidence of resistance attacks on police, army and security personnel."
Ingushetia has overtaken its neighbour Chechnya as the epicentre of violence along Russia's turbulent southern flank, challenging the Kremlin's fragile rule and, security forces say, providing a foothold for global networks of Islamist militants.
A report by the Jamestown Foundation in late May said cooperation between Ingushetia and Chechnya has been increasing to deal with separatists, and that the "heavy-handed" tactics employed by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov appears to be being adopted by Yevkuruv.
Exasperation over the actions of both sides in the conflict – the government forces and the insurgents – has been growing in Ingushetia steadily. On May 9, the parents of an alleged insurgent gang member were killed in the settlement of Ordzhonikidzevskya in Ingushetia. This was the first event of this type in Ingushetia, and it strikingly resembles the tactics of threats and killings of alleged insurgents' relatives espoused by federal forces and Kadyrov in Chechnya."