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On November 6, a bomb exploded in a minibus taxi as its reached its final destination near the central market in Vladikavkaz, capital of North Ossetia. The death toll from the explosion, which police say was the work of a female suicide bomber, currently stands at 12, with a further 38 people injured, most of them university students.

It was the third such bombing in Vladikavkaz in the past decade. Fifty-eight people were killed in March 1999 and over 100 injured when a bomb hidden under a market stall exploded; 12 people died in a similar explosion a year later. In both cases the presumed perpetrators -- from neighboring Ingushetia -- were apprehended, tried, and sentenced.

Since 2005, no fewer than 19 Ingush have been snatched on the street in broad daylight at the entrance to the market place. Many Ingush blame those abductions on the North Ossetian security forces.

Police in Vladikavkaz have not yet made any statement about the possible motives for the November 6 bombing. But Ingush human rights activist Magomed Mutsolgov expressed concern that relatives of the abducted Ingush would automatically become the prime suspect.

Whether the timing of the attack -- one week after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev named a new president of Ingushetia to replace the corrupt and discredited Murat Zyazikov -- is significant remains unclear at this juncture.

There is a small group of Islamic militants based in North Ossetia (where some 200,000 of the 700,000 population are Muslims), but it has not staged any attacks since March of this year, and never a bombing on this scale. And in contrast to earlier attacks it mounted, it has not yet claimed responsibility for the November 6 bombing.

-- Liz Fuller

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