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Opposition Head Killed In Russia's Ingushetia

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- An opposition activist from Russia's Ingushetia region has been shot dead in his car in the latest sign of rising violence in the North Caucasus.

The opposition figure and local businessman, Maksharip Aushev, was driving near the town of Nalchik in the nearby region of Kabardino-Balkaria when his car was hit by gunfire, the opposition website said, confirming earlier agency reports.

The attack with automatic weapons took place on a main road running through the region, but the full circumstances remained unclear, the website stated.

Aushev was a strong critic of the region's former president, Murat Zyazikov, but had good relations with Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, the Kremlin appointee who took over the position a year ago. Yevkurov was himself seriously injured in a June bomb blast.

Attacks in the North Caucasus regions under Moscow's control have risen sharply this year.

Analysts say the attacks, blamed by the government on Muslim insurgents backed by foreign cash, threaten Moscow's control over the volatile southern region, which is plagued by poverty and corruption.

The worst hit areas have been Daghestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya where Russia has fought two wars against separatists since 1994.

Aushev had been close to another prominent local opposition activist, Magomed Yevloyev, who was detained and killed by local police in August 2008.

The website said the deaths of the two men were linked.

"Anyone who dared to speak against the authorities or speak the truth, is doomed to the fate shared by Magomed and Maksharip," it said.