Assassination of Vladikavkaz Mayor: Business or Politics?

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 46

Russia’s state run Vesti-24 television channel reported on December 2 that police in North Ossetia had detained five people in connection with the November 26 assassination of Vladikavkaz Mayor Vitaly Karayev. According to Bloomberg News, Vesti-24 reported that police in North Ossetia had carried out 70 raids in the republic and made the arrests after finding compromising evidence. The channel reported that investigators believe Karayev’s murder was linked to his obstruction of illegal sales of state land to private investors.

As the Moscow Times reported on November 28, Karayev was struck in the heart by a single bullet in an apparent sniper attack near his home in Vladikavkaz, and he died later in the hospital.

In a statement posted November 27 on the Islamist rebel website Kavkaz-Center, the group Kataib al-Khoul, also known as the Ossetian Jamaat, said one of its senior leaders shot and killed Karayev. As the Moscow Times noted, the statement said Karayev was killed because he had ordered a crackdown in Vladikavkaz on women wearing traditional Muslim garb in the wake of a November 6 attack by a female suicide bomber in the city that left 12 people dead (North Caucasus Weekly, November 13). The statement also denied that Islamist rebels based in North Ossetia were linked to that bombing, saying they had never planned or executed attacks on civilians, with the exception of “informers and those who are openly hostile to the religion of Allah.”

Dagestan’s armed Islamic underground, the Sharia Jamaat, recently threatened to kill anyone who tries to prevent women from wearing hijab—headscarves or veils (North Caucasus Weekly, November 13).

Meanwhile, Reuters reported on December 1 that gunmen firing from a car had killed two policemen in North Ossetia. One policeman died when unknown attackers shot from a passing car at a roadblock outside Vladikavkaz. Another policeman was then killed when his vehicle was fired on by the same gunmen. RIA Novosti said the attackers, armed with automatic rifles, must have encountered the second policeman as they fled from the scene of the first shooting.