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26 Nov, 2008 15:16

What’s behind mayor’s assassination?

Professional and business activities have been named among the possible reasons for the assassination of the mayor of Vladikavkaz, the capital of Russia's republic of North Ossetia. Vitaly Karayev was shot dead by an unknown gunman as he was getting into

President Dmitry Medvedev has demanded that everything possible be done to catch those responsible for murder.

Police have launched a murder hunt and are following a number of lines of inquiry. They suspect Karayev may have been murdered because of his business activities.

“I believe there are no political motives behind the mayor’s killing,” a high-ranking law enforcement official has told RIA Novosti.

However, some analysts see other factors behind the death.

Kirill Bessonov, a journalist from the Moscow News, says the mayor had never been involved in political games, so “it looks like an attack on a state official, which means an attack on the Russian state.”

According to another version, Karayev’s murder may have been an act of revenge, carried out or ordered by local dog breeders, the Russian newspaper Tvoy Den says.

The 46-year-old was one of the most prominent breeders in the Caucasus, and last year his name was mentioned in connection with a conflict between a North Ossetian breeder’s club and breeders from Russia’s Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, which began during a local dog show. That row claimed the life of one of those involved, and there’s speculation that his friends swore to avenge his death.

Karayev, who was elected mayor less than a year ago, was shot near his house, in front of four bodyguards. He was hit in the chest and died later in hospital.   

A police spokesman later said:“there was only one bullet hole in the mayor’s car door,” confirming earlier police reports that just one shot was fired – from a great distance.

A criminal case has been launched into the incident, headed by the Investigation Committee of the Russian Prosecutor’s Office.

Vladimir Markin from the Investigation Committee of the Russian Prosecutor’s Office told reporters that “judging by the nature of the shot, it could have been done by a sniper.”

“Investigators are examining the scene and other urgent inquiries are being taken to trace all the circumstances of the crime and to find the people who committed it,” he said.

Karayev is survived by a wife and three children.

This latest incident is just one of many. Last month the city’s vice mayor, Mairam Tamaev, was injured in a bomb attack. His car was rigged with an explosive device, which went off as he got in.

Vladikavkaz is the capital of the Russian republic of North Ossetia, in the heart of the North Caucasus. The region, hit by years of insurgency, is no stranger to violence.

It’s home to the city of Beslan, which in 2004 became the scene of one of modern Russia's worst tragedies. Gunmen held an entire school hostage for three days and 334 people died, including 184 children.