Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 36

The authorities in Ingushetia on September 27 announced an official three-day mourning period for the murder that day of a prominent Islamic faith healer, Maksharip Belkhoroev, Itar-Tass reported. Acting Ingushetian Interior Minister Beslan Khamkhoev said the 67-year-old cleric’s murderers “aimed to destabilize the situation and thwart the peaceful development of Ingushetia.” Belkharoev, he said, was shot dead while reading the Koran in his house in the village of Alkhasty in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district, by armed men wearing camouflage uniforms and masks who broke into his house just after midnight. The cleric’s 30-year-old daughter was wounded in the attack. “We have identified the attackers and will soon catch them,” Khamkhoev said. According to Itar-Tass, Belkharoev had “publicly criticized Wahhabis many times.”

Kommersant on September 28 quoted the head of the administration of Ingushetia’s Sunzha district, Akhmed Nakostkhoev, as saying that “provocateurs” aiming to destabilize the republic may have been behind Belkharoev’s murder. “The situation has been heated to the highest degree by terrorist acts, and here is another murder, which literally shocked everyone,” he said. “Someone wants to sow panic and chaos here at home.”

For his part, Ingushetian opposition leader Musa Ozdoev, who is a deputy in the republic’s People’s Assembly, said Belkharoev was murdered for “political” reasons. “This and other crimes distracts the population from the problem of corruption…This is also needed by [Ingushetian President Murat] Zyazikov, in order to fortify his position. He hopes that the introduction of additional troops [and] special operations by the law-enforcement organs will frighten the people and that everyone will forget about the Prigorodny district [the disputed North Ossetian district that until 1944 belonged to Ingushetia-CW], about Zyazikov’s deceit in relation to this problem, etc.”

Meanwhile, a source in the Unified Group of Forces in the North Caucasus told Interfax on September 24 that a federal unit commander was killed and two other servicemen wounded in a battle with a group of rebels on the outskirts of the Ingushetian village of Nesterovskaya. The source said the three rebel fighters were wounded in the battle but that the rebels managed to escape. On September 23, a member of the Ingushetian Interior Ministry’s office of extra-departmental protection was shot to death in his apartment in Nazran.