Ingush leader returns home after assassination attempt

Society Materials 23 August 2009 00:49 (UTC +04:00)

Ingushetia's leader returned to the turbulent Russian region on Saturday after medical treatment following an assassination attempt and promised to wage a "merciless" fight against terrorism, Reuters reported.

President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov consoled residents as he limped around the burned-out site of an attack this week which killed at least 25 people in the region's biggest city, Nazran.

He had been recovering at a resort near Moscow from wounds sustained when a suicide bomber blew up his car in June, killing his driver. "His health is good and all is well," his spokesman Kaloi Akhilgov said.

Yevkurov returned one day after Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for the biggest attack in Ingushetia in years.

"The fight against terrorism will be merciless," Yevkurov said on state television. But the 46-year-old former paratrooper stopped short of announcing a counter-terrorist operation across Ingushetia.

"To introduce such an operation is easy, ending it is the difficult part," he told a news conference in regional capital Magas, explaining that ceasing a counter-terrorism drive could be seen as a green light for violence.

Ingushetia, Russia's poorest region, borders Chechnya where Moscow has fought two wars against separatists since the early 1990s. It has become a new focus of attacks by Islamist radicals threatening the stability of Russia's strategically important North Caucasus.

Rights groups and Ingush opposition say lawlessness and poverty are as responsible for the increase in violence as the Islamist insurgency.

Yevkurov appealed to militants to give up their arms: "If you voluntarily lay down your weapons, I will forgive you."

He also promised reformed insurgents protection and a fair trial process. "It is impossible to corner people. Even rats would resist," he said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told Yevkurov by telephone he was certain the Ingush leader would restore order, the Kremlin said. Yevkurov told journalists he also planned restructure the Ingush government.


Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, in line with Medvedev's new security measures in the North Caucasus, ordered that the liquidation of "terrorists" and their channels of financing be sped up, the ministry said on Saturday.

On Monday a suicide bomber rammed a truck full of explosives into the gate of the main police station in Nazran, marking the deadliest attack in the North Caucasus since 2005.

Medvedev sacked Ingushetia's interior minister after the bombing, sent his own deputy interior minister to control security and ordered a crackdown on militants.