Chechen Refugee Gunned Down in Vienna

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

The victim — reportedly a Chechen political refugee — 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.

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 had received political asylum in Austria.

Jarosch said investigators were looking into claims that "secret services" were involved in the slaying. He declined to say to which country such services might be linked.

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 alleging abuses by security forces led by Kadyrov 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., has denied involvement in the attack but told investigators after being detained that Israilov 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.

Israilov filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in 2006, describing cases of abductions and torture committed by Kadyrov and his associates between 2003 and 2005, The New York Times said.

The press office for the European Court of Human Rights said Wednesday that it received an initial complaint from an Umar Israilov in November 2006 but that it could not confirm that it was from the man slain in Vienna.

Because it received no follow-up information from the plaintiff following the initial appeal, the complaint was expunged from the court's records, the court's press office said. For this reason, the court said it could not provide details of the complaint or further information about the identity of the plaintiff.

Israilov's Austrian lawyer, Nadja Lorenz, said through her secretary Wednesday that she could not speak about the case until she had consulted with the Israilov's relatives.

But she told The New York Times that she had recently sought protection for Israilov from the authorities but that her request had been denied.

Israilov was returning to his apartment building from a trip to the grocery store at about 1 p.m. Tuesday when he was ambushed by two men two men wearing camouflage pants, one of whom was carrying a handgun, witnesses told the Kurier.

A wild foot chase ensured, with the attackers pursuing Israilov 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 was quoted as saying.

Israilov fell to the pavement on the Ostmarkgasse, where the attackers shot him twice in the head, Vienna police spokeswoman Karin Strycek told the Kurier.

Reached by telephone, Strycek referred all inquiries to the Vienna prosecutor's office.

Many Chechens, including rebels, have fled abroad in the two wars that have ravaged the restive republic since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A senior rebel, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, was killed in Qatar in 2004 when a bomb ripped through his sports utility vehicle in Doha. Two Russian intelligence service agents were arrested in Qatar and sentenced to life in prison for the bombing. They were extradited to Russia in January 2005, and a month later the head of the Federal Prison Service, Yury Kalinin, publicly acknowledged that they were not being held in any Russian prison.