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Senior Cleric Shot Dead In Russian Caucasus

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- A leading Muslim cleric was shot dead in his car in southern Russia on September 20, a state investigator said, in an attack another religious leader blamed on Islamist militants.

Gunmen shot dead Ismail Bostanov, the second most senior Muslim cleric in Karachayevo-Cherkessia region, as his car arrived in the regional capital Cherkessk, investigator Vyacheslav Taranenko said.

Karachayevo-Cherkessia is one of the least violent of Russia's mainly Muslim North Caucasus regions and has largely escaped a recent surge in violence in nearby Chechnya, Daghestan, and Ingushetia.

The killing was likely carried out by adherents of the Wahhabi strain of Islam, whose influence Bostanov had tried to curb, another senior cleric in the region Ismail Berdiyev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

A police officer and two of his brothers were shot dead in a separate attack in Ingushetia on September 20, Interfax reported, citing a police spokesman.