10/31/2012, 00.00
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Salafi imam and two relatives killed in Dagestan

by Nina Achmatova
The massacre of moderate and radical Imams continues, and experts warn of the risk of the Caucasian republic sliding towards civil war, just as Moscow looks forward to the Sochi Olympics to boost the economy of the region.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - A group of unidentified armed men murdered a Muslim religious leader and two of his relatives, in the troubled republic of Dagestan, Russian Caucasus. On 30 October, the Salafi imam Kalimulla Ibragimov, 49, was travelling with his father and his brother by car to the morning prayers in a mosque in Derbent, when group attacked.

This is the third imam killed in the region since March, but this time the victim is not a moderate. Ibragimov, as reported by Russian agencies, was a Salafi who preached fundamentalist Islam. The Directorate of Muslims of Dagestan, quoted by Ria Novosti, said they did not know who the victim was.

The Kavkaz Center, the official website of the rebels in the North Caucasus, has called Ibragimov a "martyr" explaining that the imam "ideologically opposed various sects of idolaters in Dagestan."

Some see the attack as a response to the murder in August of one of the spiritual leaders of the Dagestani Sufis community, Sheikh Said Afandi to Chirkavi, a moderate and promoter of dialogue. Afandi was a well known figure in the varied realities of the Caucasus, where infighting is on the rise between Salafis and Sufis, associated with a mystical tradition, represented by the Sheikh who was highly respected by the people. This year alone five Muslim religious leaders have been killed in Dagestan, including another Salafi in early October.

After the so-called "pacification" of Chechnya, Dagestan has become the most unstable among the republics of the Russian Caucasus, where Moscow continues to fight Islamist insurgents who advocate the creation of an emirate. In recent years, a deadly campaign has been launched against the religious officials, in response to their explicit criticism of radical Islam, even from local mosques, at the behest of the Kremlin in an attempt to stifle separatism.

The President of Dagestan, Magomedsalam Magomedov, has promised an iron fist against "extremism and terrorism", but some members of the local Muslim community have warned of the real risk that the Dagestan is sliding towards a real civil war. A perspective that puts at risk the security of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, close to Daghestan, and through which the Kremlin aims to boost the economy of the Caucasus and present the region as a possible tourist destination.

In July, the attack on a prominent moderate Islamic leader in Tatarstan - another autonomous republic of the Federation, about 2 thousand kilometers from Dagestan - and the killing of his right hand man on the same day, raised fears that Islamic fundamentalism is spreading to the heart of the country. So much so that President Vladimir Putin immediately went to Kazan, the Tatar capital, to appeal for calm.


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