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Ingushetian Leader Returns Home After Assassination Attempt

Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, in the hospital in Moscow soon after the attack
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Ingushetia's leader has returned to the Russian region after medical treatment following an assassination attempt and promised to wage a "merciless" fight against terrorism.

President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov smiled as he limped off an airplane in the capital Magas, state TV showed. He had been recovering at a resort near Moscow from wounds sustained when a suicide bomber blew up his car in June, killing his driver.

"His health is good and all is well. He's come back to fight terrorism," his spokesman, Kaloy Akhilgov, said.

Yevkurov returned one day after Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for the biggest attack in Ingushetia in years, in which 25 people were killed on August 17. Interfax quoted him as saying: "The situation in Ingushetia is very difficult, but not hopeless. The fight against terrorism will be merciless."

Ingushetia, Russia's poorest region, borders Chechnya where Moscow has fought two wars against separatists since the early 1990s. It has become a new focus of attacks by Islamist radicals threatening the stability of Russia's strategically important North Caucasus.

Rights groups and the Ingushetian opposition say lawlessness and poverty are equally as responsible for the surge in violence as the Islamist insurgency.

On August 17 a suicide bomber rammed a truck full of explosives into the gate of the main police station in Nazran, Ingushetia's largest city, marking the deadliest attack in the North Caucasus since 2005.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sacked Ingushetia's interior minister after the bombing, sent his deputy interior minister to control security, and ordered a crackdown on militants.

On August 22 Medvedev told Yevkurov, a former paratrooper appointed by the Kremlin last October, by telephone he was certain the Ingushetian leader would restore order, the Kremlin said in a statement.

On unofficial Islamist rebel website, Chechen rebels, under the command of the region's most wanted separatist leader Doku Umarov, said the bomb attack was the work of a "martyr."

In the same statement, rebels said they were waging an economic war against Russia and were behind the Siberian dam disaster that killed up to 75 people this week, though analysts were doubtful about the claim.

On August 22 Umarov, who also goes by his Arabized name Usman, said on "Ramadan is the best time for jihad!", referring to the holiest month for Muslims, which started in the region on August 21.