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Ingushetia president injured in bombing

A SUICIDE car bomber attacked a convoy carrying the president of the Russian Republic of Ingushetia yesterday, critically wounding him and killing two bodyguards - the latest in a string of attacks in the North Caucasus.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack on Yunus Bek Yevkurov, a sharp escalation of the violence that has targeted police and government officials with growing frequency in the southern provinces surrounding Chechnya.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for a "direct and harsh" response to the attacks, which he linked to federal and local efforts to bring calm to the area after nearly 15 years of war, crime and terrorism in Chechnya.

Yevkurov, who used to work for the Russian intelligence services, was appointed president in October.

The bomber attacked at about 8:30am as Yevkurov traveled outside the Ingush republic center, Nazran. A car maneuvered around a police escort vehicle, drove directly into the convoy and then exploded, said a spokeswoman.

Presidential spokesman Kaloi Akhilgov said Yevkurov suffered serious concussion and broken ribs, but his life was not in danger. Hospital officials, however, said he was in a critical condition, with burns, brain injuries and damage to internal organs.

Yevkurov's burnt-out armored sedan stood in the grass off the roadside, its windows shattered, its wheels missing and most of its front end destroyed. Shrapnel was scattered for hundreds of meters and there was blood on the ground in several places. Two roadside houses had their roofs damaged and their windows shattered.

Yevkurov was the third top official to be wounded or killed in Ingushetia in the past three weeks and the fourth in the North Caucasus this month.

Ingushetia is home to hundreds of refugees from the wars in Chechnya, to the east. Like other North Caucasus regions, it has seen a spike in violence in recent years.

Law enforcement forces have swept the regions along Ingushetia's border with Chechnya in recent months, trying to keep militants from moving into Ingushetia.

On June 10, gunmen killed the region's deputy chief Supreme Court justice. Three days later, the region's former deputy prime minister was gunned down.

On June 5, the top law enforcement officer of another North Caucasus republic, Dagestan, was shot.


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