Murdered Chechen Exile Had Sought Protection

A Chechen political refugee gunned down on the streets of Vienna earlier this week had told Austrian authorities that he thought he was being followed, but there is no evidence suggesting that the killers were hired or politically motivated, Vienna prosecutors said Thursday.

The man, identified by police as Umar Israilov, was shot Tuesday three times by two men who were picked up by car afterward, Vienna prosecutor's office spokesman Gerhard Jarosch told journalists.

"A political background [for the murder] is something we are considering, but we need proof. So far, we don't have any," Jarosch said.

The owner of the car in which the killers escaped, an asylum seeker also from Chechnya, was arrested Tuesday, Jarosch said. Police are still searching for the killers.

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

Before fleeing to Europe, Israilov, 27, briefly worked as a bodyguard for Kadyrov, The New York Times reported on its web site.

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 told The Moscow Times on 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.

(Reuters, MT)