MOSCOW -- A senior Muslim official in Russia says the recent killing of a mufti in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region should not necessarily be blamed on Islamic extremists, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.
Mufti Nafigulla Ashirov, chairman of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Asian Russia, told RFE/RL that the extreme violence in the North Caucasus should not be exclusively associated with religious groups.
Ashirov made his comments after the killing of Ismail Bostanov, the second most senior Muslim cleric in Karchayev-Cherkessia and Stavropol Krai on September 20 in Cherkessk.
He said "reporters and even law-enforcement agencies tend to blame the killings on some mythical Wahhabis, which is an easy explanation." He added he hopes the investigation of the case will prove him right.
But Ismail Berdiyev, chairman of the Coordination Center of North Caucasus Muslims, says Bostanov's killing was likely carried out by adherents of the Wahhabi strain of Islam, whose influence Bostanov had tried to curb.
Enver Kisriev, the head of the Caucasus Department in the civilization research center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, says Bostanov adhered to traditional Islam and was loyal to the authorities.
It was the second major attack against Bostanov. In December 2006, people broke into Bostanov's house to allegedly steal money collected by Cherkess pilgrims for the hajj. But they did not find any money and instead stabbed Bostanov and his wife in front of their children.
Karachayevo-Cherkessia has been one of the least violent of Russia's mainly Muslim North Caucasus regions and has largely escaped the recent surge in violence that has emerged in neighboring Chechnya, Daghestan, and Ingushetia.
Meanwhile, a police officer and two of his brothers were shot dead in a separate attack in Ingushetia on September 20.