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Ingush Leader Recovers, To Fight Rebels, Corruption

Ingush leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, seriously wounded in a suicide bomb attack, has made his first public appearance, pledging to step up the fight against rebels and corruption among his own officials.

The 46-year-old former paratrooper general was unconscious for many days fighting for his life after suffering head injuries, burns, and damage to internal organs when a car loaded with explosives wedged into his motorcade on June 22.

Russian television showed Yevkurov walking with a stick and dressed in a black suit as he spoke to the media before leaving a Moscow hospital on August 10.

"The policy will largely remain the same, although it may become slightly tougher, including towards those involved in corruption," Russian news agencies quoted Yevkurov as saying.

Yevkurov, nominated for the job by the Kremlin last October, has said he believes it is not only militant Islamist propaganda but also widespread poverty aggravated by deep-rooted corruption that push many young people to join the rebels.

"If I could catch that suicide terrorist, I would have probably forgiven him," Vesti-24 channel showed Yevkurov telling reporters. "I have no intention to take revenge."

"But I repeat once again -- those who surrender will be prosecuted by the law.... The ones who do not lay down weapons and do not surrender will be destroyed -- this is the law, this is not my whim, and everyone must understand that."

Human rights activists say that apart from poverty and corruption, tough official methods also push locals to take up arms and join the insurgents.

In next-door Chechnya, ethnically and historically linked to Ingushetia, federal troops have fought two wars against pro-independence rebels since the mid-1990s. Local leaders' harsh methods in crushing opposition since then have subdued dissent but have been condemned by human rights groups.

As Yevkurov was fighting for his life in a Moscow hospital, many in Ingushetia feared a surge in violence after Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov vowed to take revenge for the attack on Yevkurov.

Yevkurov, due to return to work in late August, moved to dispel such fears. "Ramzan Kadyrov has no intention to command Ingushetia, just like Yevkurov has no plans to run Chechnya. It was our common decision [to fights the rebels together]," Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying.