Top judge shot dead in southern Russia

NAZRAN, Russia Sun Apr 13, 2008 12:48pm BST

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NAZRAN, Russia (Reuters) - A top judge in Russia's southern troubled province of Ingushetia who had led trials of Islamic rebels was shot dead on Sunday, local police said.

Khasan Yandiyev, deputy head of Ingushetia's Supreme Court, was killed while changing a tyre on his car near the town of Karabulak, a regional interior ministry spokesman said.

"No one heard the shot, perhaps it was a sniper or assailants used a gun with silencer," he added saying that Yandiyev died of wounds in an ambulance car on the way to hospital.

The spokesman said an investigation was under way, but could give no further details.

Russian news agencies said earlier that Yandiyev, 51, was killed from an assault rifle.

As a senior judge, Yandiyev has chaired trials of both Islamic rebels and corrupt officials, Russian media said.

Ingushetia, one of Russia's poorest regions, has seen a rise in violence in recent months, including attacks on police and the military.

Ingushi authorities blame Muslim radicals, both local and from neighbouring Chechnya, for the attacks. Their opponents say the new bout of violence is a result of the local government's ineffective and repressive policies.

(Writing by Oleg Shchedrov; Editing by Sami Aboudi)

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