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Russia rights activist killed in North Caucasus region

[JURIST] A prominent opposition leader and human rights activist in Russia's southern province of Ingushetia [official website, in Russian; BBC backgrounder], Maksharip Aushev, was reportedly shot dead Sunday while traveling on a highway in the North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria. According to Russian media, the unidentified gunmen fired more than 60 shots [Moscow Times report] at Aushev's vehicle, killing him and wounding a female passenger. Aushev, an outspoken critic of former Ingush president Murat Zyazikov and Ingush state security forces, was the target of a failed kidnapping attempt in September and had been repeatedly threatened. Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who replaced Zyazikov, expressed his condolences and promised [official statement, in Russian] "to make every effort to uncover the crime." The Kabardino-Balkaria Ministry of Internal Affairs has announced a reward for information that helps identify the killers. Aushev was buried Monday in the village of Surkhakhi, where more than 3,000 supporters came to mourn his death [Moscow Times report].

Ashev's death is at least the third killing of a human rights defender in Russia in recent months. In August, Chechen activist Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband, Alik Dzhabrailov were found dead [JURIST report] after being abducted [Moscow Times report] from the office of her charity organization. The killings followed the kidnapping and shooting death [JURIST report] of one of Chechnya's best-known rights activists, Nataliya Estemirova [BBC obituary], in July. Earlier this year, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin [official profile] expressed concern [JURIST report] that rights activists in Russia were being attacked with greater frequency.

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