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‘Moderate imam’ shot dead in Russia

MOSCOW: A local imam in Russia’s North Caucasus was shot dead on Wednesday, the latest murder of a religious leader in an area known for simmering Islamist insurgency.

Magomed Khidirov, a 34-year-old imam in the village of Kurush in the region of Dagestan bordering Chechnya, was shot dead at 4 am (0100 GMT) by two men as he headed to morning prayers, Russian investigators said.

“Two unidentified men wearing masks shot the imam with a pistol,” said the Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes. Khidirov died on the spot while his assailants fled.

Khidirov was known for preaching moderate traditional Islam, particularly to the region’s youth, and also ran an online television channel.

Dagestan has become a hotbed of Islamic extremism and moderate preachers are regularly targeted there and in the wider North Caucasus region.

In 2012 a suicide bomber posing as a pilgrim killed a leading Islamic scholar Said Afandi in his home in Dagestan, along with six other people.

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