The head of Russia's troubled Muslim region of Ingushetia was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt Monday, dealing a fresh blow to the Kremlin's fragile rule of the North Caucasus.
Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was badly hurt early this morning when a roadside bomb detonated as his convoy drove past on his way to work, local news agencies reported. Tass said four of his bodyguards were killed and five others were wounded.
Prosecutors said only that there were dead and wounded but a doctor at the hospital in the city of Nazran, where the president was undergoing surgery in intensive care, said that Yevkurov was on artificial respiration.
"It is hard to see how anyone could have survived," such a strong blast, he added.
Ingush presidential press secretary Kaloi Akhilgov, who said he was with the president in hospital, told Reuters by telephone that Yevkurov "has injuries of medium gravity. He is conscious."
Asked if the president's life was in danger, Akhilgov said "no, not yet."
The non-government ingushetia.org Web site reported that the explosion happened not far from a crossroads leading to the regional capital of Magas as the president's convoy headed to work. It said the president's brother was among the wounded.
We heard a powerful explosion around 8 o'clock, it nearly blew out the windows," a local resident said.
A source in local law enforcement agencies confirmed that Yevkurov had been wounded but gave no further details.
Epicenter of violence
Ingushetia has overtaken its neighbor Chechnya as the epicenter of violence along Russia's turbulent southern flank, challenging the Kremlin's fragile rule and, security forces say, providing a foothold for global networks of Islamist militants.
President Dmitry Medvedev appointed ex-paratroop officer Yevkurov as president in October, replacing former secret police officer Murat Zyazikov, who was blamed by critics for failing to calm the rebellion.