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Chechnya: Religious Leader Gunned Down

Grozny, 11 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - Chechen authorities said today that a Chechen religious leader was gunned down in a killing that may be related to his criticism of a fundamentalist Islamic movement.

The Chechen National Security Service said Hasanbek Yakhiyev, a Grozny mullah, was gunned down in front of his house last night.

Yakhiyev's relatives then caught the suspect and killed him. The identity of the suspect was not immediately known.

Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev told Itar-tass the killing was not religiously motivated. Yakhiyev' relatives however claimed the suspect had proclaimed himself to be a member of the Wahhabite Islamic sect.

Wahhabism, a fundamentalist branch of Islam, practiced in Saudi Arabia, has lately been gaining ground in the North Caucasus and especially in Chechnya's neighbour, Dagestan. Chechnya has traditionally followed a more moderate style of Islam and Chechen President Askan Maskhadov has spoken out against Wahhabism.