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Senior Judge Shot Dead In Russia's North Caucasus Region

6/10/2009 1:23 PM ET

Unidentified gunmen have shot and killed a senior judge in the volatile southern republic of Ingushetia in Russia's North Caucasus region, said officials and local reports on Wednesday.

Officials said that Aza Gazgireyeva, the deputy head of Ingushetia's supreme court, was attacked in the town of Nazran early on Wednesday morning as she was dropping her children off at school.

According to officials, the gunmen opened fire at the judge's car before escaping in two cars. They said that Gazgireyeva succumbed to her injuries later at a hospital in the city, adding that five others, including a small child, were injured in the attack.

Though no one has claimed responsibility for the judge's assassination, Russian news agencies suggested that Gazgireyeva was most probably killed for her role in investigating a 2004 attack on Ingush police forces by Chechen fighters.

Her assassination comes just 18 months after her predecessor was shot dead, and it is the latest act of violence in Russia's troubled mountainous North Caucasus region, which has witnessed several terror attacks and frequent clashes between separatists and security forces in the recent past.

Official estimates indicate that nearly 50 people have died in violence in Ingushetia between January and March. Experts say that the insurgency in the region is fueled by Islamic extremism, separatism and poor economic conditions.

Though Russia announced in April that it was formally ending its decade-long counter-terrorism operation in the volatile southern republic of Chechnya, periodic bombings and clashes between militants and federal troops still disrupt Chechnya and nearby regions, particularly Daghestan and Ingushetia.

by RTT Staff Writer

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