updated 9/27/2009 4:10:35 PM ET 2009-09-27T20:10:35

Gunmen killed a village chief and his son in Chechnya in the latest in a series of assassinations in Russia's violent North Caucasus, an official said Sunday.

Chechen Interior Ministry spokesman Magomed Deniev said the attackers sprayed Ali Artamov with gunfire Saturday evening in the center of Stary Achkoi.

The Interfax news agency, citing unnamed law enforcement officials, said the gunmen had waited to shoot Artamov until his son had entered a nearby building and Artamov was alone in his car.

This summer has seen a dramatic spike in violence in the North Caucasus, undermining Kremlin claims that after two wars in 15 years in Chechnya, things are returning to normal in the region.

Chechnya's Kremlin-backed president has claimed militants are backed by U.S. and British intelligence agencies.

Meanwhile, in the North Caucasus region of Dagestan, bordering Chechnya to the west, gunmen on Sunday shot and killed a top regional police officer in charge of investigations, Interior Ministry spokesman Mark Tolchinsky said. His nephew, who was a local police official, was also killed in the shooting.

And in Moscow, unknown attackers gunned down the chief of Dagestan's Khasavyurt region late Sunday, shooting him and his bodyguard as they sat in a car, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. The bodyguard was hospitalized, the agency reported.

Dagestan's top law enforcement officer was killed by sniper in June, Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov, as he stood outside a restaurant where a wedding was taking place in the regional capital, Makhachkala.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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