Nationalists Claim Decapitation

The severed head of a Tajik man murdered last week in an apparent hate crime was discovered in a dumpster in western Moscow, investigators said Thursday.

In a disturbing twist, an obscure ultranationalist group claimed responsibility for the slaying by e-mailing a photograph of the victim's detached head to two human rights organizations, the groups said Thursday.

The victim's head was discovered wrapped in a plastic bag in a dumpster Wednesday on Ulitsa Tolbukhina, near Kuntsevskaya metro station on the Moscow western outskirts, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

An autopsy confirmed that the head belonged to a 20-year-old native of Tajikistan whose decapitated body was discovered last week near the village of Zhabkino, a few kilometers south of Moscow, the statement said.

The victim and a fellow Tajik worker at a local food warehouse were walking home last Friday evening when they were attacked by about 10 men, who shot them with pellet guns and proceeded to beat them, according to investigators.

The murder victim died at the scene, having been stabbed in the torso six times before he was beheaded, investigators said. The other Tajik worker managed to escape and was subsequently hospitalized in critical condition.

A police source identified the murder victim only by his last name, Azizov, Interfax reported. Repeated calls to the Tajik Embassy in Moscow went unanswered Thursday afternoon.

The chiefs of the only two nongovernmental organizations tracking hate crimes in Russia said Thursday that they had received an e-mail this week from a previously unknown ultranationalist group claiming responsibility for the slaying.

The e-mail, from a group calling itself the Militant Organization of Russian Nationalists, attached a digital photograph showing the victim's head resting on a wooden chopping block, said Galina Kozhevnikova, head of the Sova Center xenophobia watchdog.

"The message said that with this beheading, the group is demonstrating its resolve to further fight against occupiers," Kozhevnikova said. "They also said the same fate awaits officials who would hamper their fight."

The message, sent from a cell phone, said the head would be dumped near the Mozhaisky District administration building, Kozhevnikova said, adding that she went straight to police after receiving the e-mail.

The district has been a lightning rod for ultranationalist rage in recent months after the rape and murder of 15-year-old Anna Beshnova there two months ago — a crime for which an Uzbek city maintenance worker has been charged.

Ultranationalists have held unsanctioned rallies in the district calling for migrant workers to be expelled from the country, prompting dozens of migrants to quit their jobs with the city over fears for their safety.

Two other organizations were copied on the e-mail, Kozhevnikova said: the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, the only NGO other than Sova tracking hate crimes in Russia, and the daily tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Alexander Brod, head of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights and a member of the Public Chamber, confirmed to Interfax on Thursday that he had received the e-mail. He declined to comment when reached by telephone.

Two people reached by telephone at the Komsomolskaya Pravda editorial office said they did not know of the newspaper receiving the e-mail.

A police source told Interfax that a nationalist web site posted a video of the murder. An exhaustive Internet search Thursday failed to find such a file or any earlier references to the Militant Organization of Russian Nationalists. Kozhevnikova of Sova suggested that it may be a nonexistent group.

The purported footage of the killing recalls a horrifying video distributed on the Internet last year showing the murder of two dark-skinned men.

The video, which appeared on ultranationalist web sites under the title "The Execution of a Tajik and a Dagestani," showed the victims kneeling, bound and gagged in front of a Nazi flag. Masked men saw one man's head off with a large knife and shoot the other.

A Dagestani family later identified one of the victims as their relative.

A student in the southern republic of Adygeya was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison last year for inciting ethnic hatred by posting the three-minute video on his LiveJournal blog. The killers remain at large.

Staff Writer Alexandra Odynova contributed to this report.