5 Detained In Mayor's Assassination

Police in North Ossetia have detained five people in connection with the assassination last month of the mayor of Vladikavkaz, state-run Vesti-24 television reported Tuesday.

Police carried out 70 raids in North Ossetia and made the arrests after finding compromising evidence, Vesti-24 said, citing an unidentified law enforcement official.

Investigators believe that the murder of Vladikavkaz Mayor Vitaly Karayev was linked to his obstruction of illegal sales of state land to private investors, Vesti-24 reported.

Senior security officials have warned of a rising terrorist threat in the mainly Muslim North Caucasus after a Nov. 6 minibus suicide attack in Vladikavkaz that left 13 people dead and Karayev's assassination.

A little-known Islamic militant group called Kataib al-Khoul claimed responsibility for the Nov. 26 murder of Karayev in a statement posted on the Kavkaz Center web site, which analysts believe is close to Islamic extremists. It said the murder was in retaliation for the mayor's crackdown on observant Muslims after the minibus attack.

Police believe that Karayev was killed by a sniper because he was struck by a single bullet.

Tensions based on religion, ethnicity and a lack of economic opportunity have led to a spiral of violence in the North Caucasus. North Ossetia, a predominantly Christian republic in a mostly Muslim region, was also the site of the 2004 Beslan school hostage-taking, in which 334 people died.