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Senior Official Shot Dead In Russia's Ingushetia

NAZRAN, Russia (Reuters) -- A senior official in the volatile Russian province of Ingushetia has been shot dead, police said, in the latest high-profile killing in the mainly Muslim North Caucasus.

The minister for sport in the regional administration, Ruslan Balayev, was shot dead in his car, a police source told Reuters.

Last month an assassination attempt left regional leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov gravely wounded in hospital.

"The minister was shot near Nizhny-Achaluki and died of his wounds," the source said, referring to a village 20 kilometers north of Nazran, Ingushetia's largest city.

Ingushetia has overtaken its neighbor Chechnya as the main center of violence along Russia's turbulent southern flank.

On July 15, the body of prominent human rights activist Natalya Estemirova was found in Ingushetia hours after she was kidnapped in Chechnya.

Earlier this month nine Chechen policemen sent to help crush Ingushetia's insurgency were killed by rebels.

Analysts say Islamist insurgencies in the North Caucasus have been fuelled in recent months by new recruits bitter at economic hardship and heavy-handed antiterror tactics used by regional leaders.

In a separate incident on July 17, a policeman was shot dead in the Chechen capital Grozny, Interfax news agency reported, the latest in a daily stream of attacks.