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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moslem Leader Killed In Dagestan Car Bomb

The mufti of the southern Russian republic of Dagestan, an outspoken critic of Islamic extremism, was killed Friday afternoon in a car bombing, news agencies reported from the republic's capital of Makhachkala.

Said-Mukhammad Abubakarov, leader of Dagestan's Moslem, was killed along with his brother and driver by a radio-controlled bomb that exploded as their car was approaching a mosque at 12:50 p.m. Friday, a Dagestani official said in a telephone interview.

"People are shocked and angered by this terrorist act," said Magomed Kurbanov, Dagestan's deputy minister of nationalities. He said Friday afternoon that the terrorists have not yet been found and refused to name any suspects.

The rise of religious fundamentalism, along with ethnic and clan strife, has contributed to growing instability in Dagestan, a multi-ethnic Moslem republic in southern Russia, bordering Chechnya.

Russian media reported earlier this week that in two Dagestani villages, Wahhabites -- followers of a rigorous Islamic sect which is supported by Saudi Arabia -- put up road blocks and declared they were seceding from Russia. Dagestan has threatened to reimpose its authority by force.

News agencies reported Friday that the villagers, living in settlements in a part of Dagestan that borders Chechnya, had declared they were introducing Shariah law and joining Chechnya.

"What kind of independence are they talking about?" Kurbanov said. "There will be no such independence from Dagestan or Russia. The people of Dagestan do not accept this."

Mufti Abubakarov, 42, was an authoritative figure and outspoken enemy of Wahhabism. Russian media reported Friday that he had been threatened on many occasions and, as a precaution against bomb attacks, he regularly changed cars.

Mufti Ravil Gainutdin, the leader of Central Russia's Moslems and chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, said Friday that all Moslem leaders of Russia condemned this "horrible, beastly crime."

"We are all in shock," he said with his voice trembling. "The political leaders of our country don't understand yet whom we have lost: He was a true peacemaker and had high personal authority not only among Russia's Moslems, but internationally," Gainutdin said.

Gainutdin added that Abubakarov was a strong opponent of the spread of Wahhabism in Dagestan and advocated teachings that are traditional for the Northern Caucasus. "Those who were against his tough position" could have killed him, Gainutdin said.

Most Russian Moslems follow Khanafite Islam, which is not so rigorous and allows greater freedom for local customs and traditions.

Gainutdin said a memorial service for Abubakarov will be held in Moscow Saturday and various Russian religious groups have been asked to sign a joint statement condemning violence in Dagestan.