A suicide bomber killed seven people including a top Russian policeman yesterday when he drove his car into a police convoy in the southern Russian region of Ingushetia.
Among the dead was Dzhabrail Kostoyev, deputy head of the Ingushetia interior ministry, two of his guards, and four civilians, a police spokesman said.
They were killed when a sedan packed with explosives blocked a road on the outskirts of the region's main city of Nazran and blew up, regional police officials and an Interior Ministry spokesman in southern Russia said.
Preliminary findings suggest that a suicide attacker was in the car that exploded, ministry spokesman Roman Shchekotin said. However, Ingushetia's Security Council chief, Bashir Aushev, said it was also possible that the car-bomb was detonated by remote control.
The news came simultaneously with a report from Interfax news agency that unknown gunmen had killed the governor of a detention center in the region of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, further from Chechnya but also increasingly prone to violence.
Rebels have pledged total war against police in the North Caucasus, saying they are collaborating with Russian occupiers.
Islamist Web sites yesterday published comments from a rebel commander in Ingushetia, who pledged such attacks would increase.
"This morning the deputy minister was going to work from the village of Ekazhevo to the town of Nazran. A car containing the suicide bomber drove onto the road from a side-street ... at the moment the convoy was passing," the spokesman said.
"An investigating group is working at the site to find out the details," he said.
Television showed scraps of twisted metal scattered along the road in the low-rise town of Nazran. The twisted wreck of a Soviet-built Zhiguli car was overshadowed by a blue advertising hoarding scarred and pitted by shrapnel.
Ingushetia, which borders Chechnya and is inhabited by people closely related to the Chechens, has in recent years seen fighting that has plagued its neighbor since the end of the Soviet Union.
"One of our clear duties is targeted work against specific individuals, and also preparation for appropriate military operations to destroy certain targets as an answer to the actions of the infidel," said Magomed Yevloyev, commander or "Amir" of the Ingush rebels, on www.kavkazcenter.com.
He said he had just returned from a meeting of rebel commanders with warlord Shamil Basayev, who has led the worst attacks on civilians in the 11 years of the Chechen war and tries to coordinate Islamist strikes across the Caucasus.
Fighting spread from Chechnya to the neighboring regions of Dagestan and Ingushetia after Russian troops poured into de facto independent Chechnya in 1999, and is increasingly breaking out in the regions of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia further to the West.
Interfax said yesterday that Khasan Zhanakayev, governor of the Cherkessk detention center, had been shot dead in his car on his way to work.
A series of suicide bombings since 2000 have killed hundreds of people in Russia, targeting planes, trains, concerts, government buildings and other objects, but their use has tailed off of late.
The last deadly suicide attack killed nine police in Chechnya in early 2005, although one such militant blew himself up without causing any other casualties in Dagestan in December.