Russia: Muslim leaders targeted in Tatarstan


A Russian Muslim prays in the central Qol Sharif mosque in Kazan, Tatarstan. Two prominent Muslim clerics were targeted in separate attacks in Kazan, on July 19, 2012, leaving one dead and the other wounded.



Muslim leaders in Russia were the targets of attacks on Thursday, leaving one cleric dead, according to The Washington Post.

The Mufti of Tatarstan, Ildus Faizov, was injured in a bomb attack on his car, said the BBC, while a former deputy mufti, Valiulla Yakupov, was shot dead near his home around the same time.

Both of the clerics who were targeted were prominent opponents of religious extremism, and the attacks, which happened in Kazan, a calm and prosperous city on the Volga River in Tatarstan, prompted fears of the spread of Islamic radicalism, said the Post.

President Vladimir Putin condemned the attacks, which occurred on the eve of Ramadan, and called for unity, according to Reuters.

"Law enforcement bodies are doing everything to find, expose and punish the criminals," said Putin.

Reuters reported that Faizov was able to get out of his car after one explosion hit the vehicle, but two more blasts sent flames roaring above the vehicle. Faizov, who was hospitalized with leg wounds, said, "I felt a first weak explosion in the front part of the car and immediately crawled out of the automobile," according to Reuters.

The Associated Press reported that Yakupov was gunned down as he left his house, citing Russia's Investigative Committee.

By Thursday evening, investigators said they were considering the attacks acts of terrorism.

According to the AP, the rise of the more radical form of Islam, Salafism, has been fueled by Muslim clerics from Chechnya and other Muslim provinces in the Caucasus region which play host to Islamic insurgencies.

Faizov, who became chief mufti in 2011, began a crackdown on radical Islamists by banning Salafist textbooks and removing ultraconservative preachers.