Another mufti killed in Russian Caucasus
by Nina Achmatova
In Stavropol region, car bomb attack on the deputy mufti. Investigations focus on extremists, but may also be a personal vendetta.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The murder of Muslim religious leaders in the Russian Caucasus continues. The latest victim is the deputy mufti of Stavropol, Kurmani Ismailov, who was killed while travelling in his car, on February 13, when a car bomb of 400 grams of TNT exploded.

An inquiry has been opened and police are following various leads according to the local Committee of investigation: Islamic extremism, personal revenge, bullying and debts.

Investigators believe the motive might be linked "to Ismailov's activities". According to the site Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian node), the mufti was "one of the most influential Islamic figures in Russia." He was arrested last year on suspicion of illegal possession of explosives, but released before charges could be laid. The Mufti of Stavropol, Muhammad Rakhimov, told Interfax that his deputy had never reported being threatened. "He was a person who was always trying to smooth over conflicts and never deepen them" he said.

This is not the first attack on a religious authority in the Russian Caucasus. Imams and muftis have become frequent target of attacks in recent years: in 2006 there was a real campaign of targeted killings of religious officials, in response to explicit criticism of a growing Wahhabism from local mosques which the Kremlin pledged to contain.