Russian police today arrested four people over Thursday's attack on two key religious leaders in Tatarstan known for their anti-extremist views, reported Reuters.
Tatar mufti Ildus Fayzov was wounded by a car bomb attack in Kazan on Thursday and his deputy gunned down in a separate incident. The attack, a rare occurrence in the mostly peaceful Tatar region, prompted Russian President Vladmir Putin to issue a public statement promising those responsible would be found and punished, said Reuters.
Russia's investigative committee today said investigators "believe the main motive was the professional activity of the victims, including their ideological differences with opponents," noting that Faizov maintained "a tough position toward organizations that preach radical forms of Islam."
The statement also said there was a dispute between Faizov and the Muslim pilgrim organization Ideal-Hadzh over finances, according to Reuters.
Fayzov has been hospitalized. His aide, Valiulla Yakupov, also a cleric, was shot and killed as he left his house in the Tatar capital of Kazan on Thursday, said Reuters.
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The two mullahs were known as vocal opponents of radical Islamic ideologies like Salafism, a fundamentalist version of Islam recently imported to the region by Muslim leaders from Chechnya, according to AP, where Russia struggles to keep Islamic militants at bay.
Fayzov is a leading cleric in the heavily Muslim Tatarstan republic, but local media had recently accused the 49-year-old of allegedly making a profit off his work with Muslim pilgrim groups, said AP.
Yakupov, a historian and a prolific author, was known for starting Russia’s first Islamic publishing house, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He also served as the head of education for the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Tatarstan, said BBC News.
Islam took root in Tatarstan well over a thousand years ago, but the region is split between roughly equal Sunni Muslim and Russian Orthodox communities that live mostly in peace together.