A leader of North Ossetia’s Muslim community was this week murdered by a currently unknown assailant in what is being labelled by some as an act of political assassination.
Rasul Gamzatov, North Ossetia’s deputy Mufti, was shot in the back of the head during a late night attack earlier this week. Currently there is no information regarding the identity of the attacker.
Gamaztov’s murder comes less than two years after his predecessor was also killed in a similar manner, leading some to believe that the killing was motivated by political and religious reasons.
The North Caucasus Russian republic is one of the region’s more peaceful zones, but exists in an area where religious and political tensions have often ran high. Although only around 4% of people living in the republic identify as Muslim several reports have come out regarding religious persecution faced by North Ossetia’s Muslim population.
The ethnically mixed republics of the North Caucasus have often seen violence and tension between Christian and Islamic communities leading officials to speculate that this most recent incident may be an attack on the republic’s Muslim minority.
The President of North Ossetia, Taimuraz Mamsurov told The Moscow Times: “this is either an attempt to destabilize the republic or to create artificial strife between our traditional religions – Islam and Christianity – which have coexisted in peace and harmony in the North Caucasus for centuries.”