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11 Feb, 2009 14:40

Head of Azerbaijan's Air Force shot dead

A high-ranking military official has been shot dead in the capital Baku. It was the first murder of its kind in Azerbaijan.

Lieutenant General Raeel Rzayev, aged 64, was reportedly shot in the head outside his house. Rzayev later died in hospital.

Shortly before the deadly shot, Rzayev was approaching his house in a car. Rzayev’s driver explained that he had briefly left the car to dump rubbish some 150 metres from the general's home when he heard a shot. Upon returning, he saw that the general was wounded. The driver said he had not seen the killer.

A criminal case has been launched and an investigation into the murder is underway.

Raeel Rzayev had been the head of Air Defence since the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. At the time, Azerbaijan was involved in fighting with neighbouring Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. In late 1992, he was appointed head of the republic's Air Force when it was joined together with the Air Defence.