Chechen Refugee Shot Dead on Vienna Street

Austrian authorities said Wednesday that they have arrested a Chechen suspect in the audacious murder of a Chechen political refugee on a Viennese street and are investigating whether certain "secret services" may have been behind the attack.

The victim was shot twice in the head from close range on a Vienna street at about 1 p.m. Tuesday, Vienna prosecutor's office spokesman Gerhard Jarosch told The Moscow Times in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Jarosch said he was not at liberty to disclose the name of the victim or the murder suspect, who was detained Tuesday evening. He said, however, that both men were from Chechnya and had lived in Vienna for several years.

The New York Times, citing the victim's lawyer and family friends, identified him as Umar Israilov, a former rebel who had accused Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov of kidnapping and torture and received political asylum in Austria.

Jarosch said investigators were looking into claims that "secret services" were involved in the slaying. He declined to say which country such services might be linked to.
 
Before fleeing to Europe, Israilov, 27, briefly worked as a bodyguard for Kadyrov, The New York Times reported on its web site. He filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in 2006 accusing security forces led by Kadyrov of abuses against suspected Chechen militants and their relatives, the report said.
 
The Vienna daily Kurier, citing no sources, reported on its web site that the suspect, identified only as Otto K., told investigators after being detained that Ismailov had "earned" death because he had switched allegiances after previously being loyal to Kadyrov.
 
Timur Aliyev, an adviser to Kadyrov and a former journalist who covered the two Chechen wars extensively, said by telephone from Grozny that he had never heard of Israilov.
 
He also expressed doubt that the murder could be an act of revenge by the Chechen leadership. "There are other Chechens, more important, known and influential, who file complaints against Russia in Europe and criticize Kadyrov, but they still walk around safe and sound," Aliyev said.
 
Witnesses to Tuesday's shooting told the Kurier that Israilov was returning to his apartment building from a trip to the grocery store at about 1 p.m. when he was ambushed by two men two men wearing camouflage pants, one of whom was carrying a handgun.
 
A wild foot chase ensured, with the attackers pursuing their targets through the streets of Vienna, forcing numerous drivers to brake abruptly to avoid hitting them, the report said.
 
"We heard shots, the street was packed with pedestrians," an unidentified witness said.
 
Israilov fell on the Ostmarkgasse, where the attackers shot him twice in the head, Vienna police spokeswoman Karin Strycek told the Kurier.