A suicide bomber in the southern Russian region of Dagestan killed Muslim scholar Said Afandi al- Chirkawi, local authorities said.
Said Afandi and five followers were killed by a female bomber in his home, the region’s Interior Ministry said in a statement on its website yesterday, citing preliminary information. Said Afandi was the most important spiritual leader of Dagestani Muslims, said Maxim Shevchenko, a member of President Vladimir Putin’s Council for Inter-Ethnic Relations.
The killing “may lead to a dramatic increase in violence,” said Grigory Shvedov, head of Caucasian Knot, a Moscow-based research group. “He was a religious figure with the biggest political influence as among his followers were hundreds of senior officials in Dagestan.”
Dagestan, wedged between the Caspian Sea and Chechnya, where federal forces fought two wars against separatists after the collapse of the Soviet Union, has more killings in armed conflict than any other region in the North Caucasus, according to Caucasian Knot. There were 378 people killed in 2010 and 413 in 2011, it said.
“His murder may undermine the very fragile peace process in the region and lead to large-scale repressions and the further escalation of terror,” Shevchenko said. He estimated that Said Afandi had more than a 100,000 followers, mostly ethnic Avars.
Putin was traveling in Tatarstan yesterday, another Muslim region, to pay tribute to local scholars who were killed or wounded in recent attacks.
“Terrorists, bandits, whatever ideological slogans they use to cover up, always hit from behind the corner, always cynically,” Putin said “They want to achieve only one thing -- to sow hatred and fear. They won’t succeed. Not here in Tatarstan and the Volga region, not in the North Caucasus, not in any region of our big country.”
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