Saturday 21 July 2012
Last Update 21 July 2012 8:19 am
MOSCOW: Russia has detained four men suspected of organizing an assassination attempt on the Islamic leader of Russia’s main Muslim region and killing another top cleric, investigators said yesterday.
Moscow-based investigators said the main reason for the double attacks in the oil-rich republic of Tatarstan — often praised for its religious tolerance — was the clerics’ fight against Muslim radicals.
On Thursday the Mufti of Tatarstan, Ildus Faizov, was wounded in a car bomb while his former deputy, Valiulla Yakupov, was shot dead in the region’s main city of Kazan in twin attacks.
The strikes, an hour apart, came as Muslims prepared to begin observing Ramadan at sundown.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called the attacks, which have shocked the country, a “serious signal” to the authorities.
“According to the investigation, the main motive of the crime was the professional activity of the victims including their ideological differences with opponents,” the Investigative Committee said.
It cited Faizov’s “tough stance” against organizations promoting radical Islam in Tatarstan following his election last year.
The four detained are 57-year-old Rustem Gataullin, head of Idel Haj, a tour operator for Muslim pilgrims; 39-year-old Kazan resident Murat Galleyev; and Tatarstan residents, Airat Shakirov, 41, and Azat Gainutdinov, 31.
The Investigative Committee noted that Faizov had also taken control of “the transfer of money of Idel Haj,” a tour operator organizing trips to Makkah for Muslim pilgrims.
That led to a conflict between the mufti and the head of the tour operator, with the latter threatening Faizov, it said.
More than 500 people including religious leaders showed up to pay their last respects to Yakupov at Kazan’s Apanayevskaya mosque which he headed, a spokeswoman for the Muslim Spiritual Directorate of Tatarstan told AFP.
Television footage showed the cleric’s body lying on the ground wrapped in green cloth before he was laid to rest on the first day of Ramadan.
Russia fears that the radical Islam plaguing the North Caucasus, where militants are calling for the creation of an Islamic state, could spread to its other historically Muslim regions such as Tatarstan on the Volga.
Putin said on Thursday the attacks had sent a “serious signal” to the authorities who had not taken any steps to prevent them.
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