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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

7 Killed by Car Bomb in Ingushetia

ReutersInvestigators inspecting the site of a car bomb blast Wednesday on a road near Ingushetia's main city of Nazran.
ROSTOV-ON-DON -- A car packed with powerful explosives blew up on a road in Ingushetia on Wednesday, killing seven people including a high-level regional police official in what authorities said may have been a suicide bombing.

Ingushetia's Deputy Interior Minister Dzhabrail Kostoyev, two bodyguards and four civilians were killed when a hatchback exploded on a roadside on the outskirts of the region's main city of Nazran, local police officials and a regional Interior Ministry spokesman said.

Ministry spokesman Roman Shchekotin said that preliminary information indicated a suicide attacker had been in the car that exploded. However, Ingushetia's Security Council chief, Bashir Aushev, said it was also possible the car bomb was detonated by remote control.

Kostoyev, a target of previous attacks, had been traveling in an armored vehicle to work in Nazran in a convoy of three cars, Shchekotin said. Ingush Interior Ministry spokesman Nazir Yevloyev said Kostoyev's SUV was thrown 20 meters by the blast, and Russian television networks showed the wrecked vehicle lying on its side.

Four civilians were killed when their car plowed into Kostoyev's, Yevloyev said, and NTV said they were construction workers traveling to a site. Television showed footage of a gutted, blackened car on a road littered with debris, and reported that nearby buildings were damaged in the blast, which Shchekotin said apparently had the force of about 50 kilograms of TNT.

Officials said the blast destroyed the car. Yevloyev said he could not confirm there had been a suicide bomber, telling NTV that "no body parts have been found -- just fragments of the car."

Ingushetia has been plagued by militant attacks, many targeting law enforcement officials and facilities. A concerted attack targeting police in June 2004 killed 92 people.

Kostoyev, then Nazran's police chief, was wounded in August when unknown assailants detonated a radio-controlled land mine as his car was passing. ITAR-Tass reported that a mortar shell hit his office in a February 2005 attack, but that he was not there, and RIA-Novosti said his home was hit by gunfire twice late last year.

In Karachayevo-Cherkessia, assailants fatally shot the acting chief of a jail in the city of Cherkessk on Wednesday near his home.

Poverty, corruption and persecution connected with Islam have fueled anger at the authorities in the north Caucasus, an ethnically mixed strip of republics, most of which have large Muslim populations.

The region is troubled by violence, which in some cases is linked to the Chechen conflict.

Yevloyev suggested the attack was revenge for what he called Kostoyev's "uncompromising struggle" against crime linked with extremism.

Interfax quoted Ingush Interior Minister Beslan Khamkhoyev as saying that top North Caucasus militants, including leading Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, could have been behind the attack.

Also Wednesday, officials in Dagestan, east of Chechnya, claimed to have found explosives in a school that two gunmen killed in a standoff with police Tuesday were planning to attack.