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19 Jul, 2012 11:28

Muslim leaders targeted in twin attacks in Russia's Tartarstan (VIDEO)

A top Muslim leader has been injured when his car exploded shortly after his deputy was shot dead in a spate of attacks in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan.

Deputy Mufti Valiulla Yakupov was assassinated at the door of his home on Thursday morning, as his driver was waiting for him in his car nearby. Police say Yakupov was shot six times, but still managed to get to his vehicle. He died on the way to hospital.About 30 minutes later in a different part of town Tatarstan’s head Mufti Ildus Faizov was badly injured when his car exploded. Police are talking about three devices which were apparently attached to the car exploding. The blasts were so strong; Faizov was thrown out of the car, which may have actually saved his life. The vehicle itself was completely destroyed by fire.

According to Rishat Khamidullin the head of the republic’s Muslim secretariat , Ildus Faizov is alive and is at the Central Clinical Hospital. Doctors say his condition is “moderately serious”. The police and security services are on high alert while the hunt for the attackers is underway. Reports in the media suggest police may have already cornered two suspects in a car under a bridge in the center of the Tatarstan capital Kazan. However, they could be armed and have more explosives, so the authorities have been reportedly ordered police not to get too close.

Investigators are looking at several theories why the two Muslim leaders were attacked. Both men are known to be fierce opponents of radical Islam and sought to ban Wahhabism all over Russia. They could have been attacked by religious extremists. Moreover, the Mufti of the Perm region in central Russia Mukhammedgali Khuzin claims he warned the region’s head that the Mufti of Tatarstan could be attacked back in April. He told a conference that “Wahhabite sentiments were strengthening in Tatarstan, with the influx of Muslim clerics from Chechnya and other predominantly Muslim provinces of Russia's North Caucasus.” A radical Islamist leader in 2008 was sentenced to life in prison for organizing a group that planned terrorist attacks in Tatarstan.Another theory is the attacks could be linked to the fact Ildus Faizov controls the sale of pilgrim tours to Mecca and Medina. Despite earlier promises, he failed to lower prices, causing criticism from many believers, who even accused him of cornering the market.More than a half of Tatarstan's population of 4 million is Sunni Muslim. The Volga River region is an important center of Muslim learning and culture.