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Top judge shot as violence spirals in N. Caucasus

GUNMEN shot and killed a top judge as she dropped her children off at school in Russia's North Caucasus yesterday, officials said.

The brazen daylight killing highlighted spiraling violence in the region that includes Chechnya.

Militants, meanwhile, battled police forces after attacking a police post with automatic weapons and mortars in another part of the North Caucasus. That assault in Dagestan came just hours after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev paid a high-profile, televised visit to the region in an effort to showcase official efforts to stamp out the violence.

In Ingushetia, the van carrying Aza Gazgireeva, a deputy chief justice of the regional Supreme Court, in the region's main city, Nazran, was attacked just after she had dropped her children off at the school, said an Interior Ministry spokeswoman. Gazgireeva died later at a hospital, she said. At least three other people were also wounded.

Russian news agencies said Gazgireeva was likely killed for her role in investigating the 2004 attack on Ingush police forces by Chechen militants.

In recent years, as violence has spilled over from Chechnya. Dagestan, which borders Chechnya to the east, has also seen a spike in attacks on police and government officials.

Last week, the region's Interior Minister was killed by a sniper as he stood outside a wedding celebration. That killing prompted Medvedev to visit Dagestan on Tuesday, visiting police bases and reviewing troops.


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