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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3 Suspects in Mayor's Killing Linked to Series of Murders

Three men charged in the slaying of Vladikavkaz's mayor in November have also been linked to the murders of a senior police official and a former Vladikavkaz mayor, the Investigative Committee said Wednesday.

Investigators have not identified the three suspects -- detained in raids Dec. 2 and Feb. 10 on suspicion of involvement in the killing of Vladikavkaz Mayor Vitaly Karayev on Nov. 26 -- but that said they belong to a criminal group and one of them is a police officer.

The Investigative Committee said in a statement on its web site on Wednesday that the suspects have been connected to the killings of senior Interior Ministry official Vitaly Cheldiyev on Oct. 1 and another former Vladikavkaz mayor, Kazbek Pagiyev, on Dec. 31.

Cheldiyev, head of criminal investigations with the Interior Ministry's North Ossetian branch, and his 20-year-old son died in a hail of automatic gunfire in Vladikavkaz.

Pagiyev, 49, who served as Vladikavkaz's mayor for five years and resigned as North Ossetia's deputy prime minister just a week before he was killed, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen while sitting in his car in Vladikavkaz. Pagiyev's driver also died in the attack.

Karayev, 46, was gunned down in a sniper attack near his home in Vladikavkaz and died in the hospital. Islamist militants have claimed responsibility for the killing.

Thirty-five suspects were detained in the December and February police raids, and at least three of them have been released. Another three have been charged. The three who have been charged face up to life in prison if convicted of organizing and committing multiple murders and of the illegal use of weapons.