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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Azeri Businessman Slain in City Center

An Azeri businessman was gunned down in full view of pedestrians as he sat in his Mercedes in a trendy neighborhood in central Moscow, the victim of an apparent contract murder.

Two unidentified assailants riddled the man's car with bullets at about 10 p.m. Tuesday outside the restaurant Sherbet on Ulitsa Pokrovka, a street packed with restaurants and bars near Chistiye Prudy metro station, the Investigative Committee said Wednesday.

Investigators identified the 44-year-old victim by his last name, Nadzhafov. The web site Life.ru gave his full name as Igbal Tahmaz Nadzhafov.

Law enforcement sources said the assailants were armed with a pistol and a Kalashnikov assault rifle, which was left at the scene, Gazeta.ru reported. Passers-by saw the brazen attack but were unable to give a clear description of the gunmen, who managed to escape, the web site said.

In addition to the Kalashnikov rifle, police found 12 cartridges at the scene. A police source told Interfax that one of the attackers was wearing a mask.

Life.ru published photographs of the victim's black SUV parked outside Sherbet with a shattered side window. The vehicle was registered in the name of a 28-year-old woman, Life.ru said.

The victim may have had links to organized crime, a police source told Interfax. Nadzhafov was investigated as a murder suspect in 1995, but the charges were later dropped, the source said.

The victim, who lived in the Moscow suburb of Lyubertsy — a hotbed of criminal gangs in the late 1980s and early 1990s — had been previously detained in the Moscow region and had at least one conviction, Interfax cited a police source as saying.

The killing could signal the beginning of a clan war among Azeri criminal groups operating in the Moscow region, a police source told Interfax.

Investigators have launched a murder investigation, and the killers could face life in prison if arrested, charged and convicted.

In a separate attack Tuesday night, a 36-year-old businessman from Dagestan, Arutyun Mailyan, was shot repeatedly in the courtyard of his apartment block on Lugovoi Proyezd in southern Moscow.

"The killer opened fire from a pistol but missed," a law enforcement source told Interfax. "The businessman tried to flee by foot. According to witnesses, the killer followed him for about 200 meters, shooting on the run. After that, he disappeared into the courtyards."

Mailyan was hospitalized with gunshot wounds in his back and chest, Interfax reported.