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Two people have been shot dead by security forces in Nazran, the largest city in the Russian Republic of Ingushetia, after detonating a grenade in a shopping centre, Ingush officials claim. Opposition activists have identified one of those killed as a local a human rights lawyer, and have questioned the official version of events.
According to the Ingush Interior Ministry, security forces entered the Kovcheg shopping centre at around 18:00 on Wednesday to detain two suspects; the reason for their detention was not specified.
According to the ministry, one of the suspects threw a grenade at security forces and both were then killed by return fire.
Two security officers were injured in the blast and taken to hospital, the ministry said.
Writing on her Facebook page early Thursday morning, local journalist Izabella Yevloyeva cited eyewitnesses as saying that two vehicles had arrived at the shopping centre with police and officers of the Russian National Guard, with the national guard officers then entering the building.
She said shots were then heard fired before an explosion was heard, and then again after it.
Yevloyeva, who is a member of the Ingush Committee of National Unity, told OC Media that one on those killed was Muslim Khashagulgov, a human rights lawyer and civil activist who also worked as a security guard at the shopping centre.
The Committee of National Unity was created by activists to oppose a controversial land deal between Ingushetia and neighbouring Chechnya.
Those opposed to the deal have come out to the streets in mass protests in Ingushetia demanding the deal be voided and that the head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, step down.
[Read more on OC Media: Russian court rules Chechen–Ingush land swap legal]
Yevloyeva identified the other as Ilez Khanyyev, a perfume salesperson.
According to Yevloyeva, Khashagulgov had opposed the agreement and participated in protest actions.
A meeting place for activists
According to Yevloyeva, the authorities conducted searches in the shopping centre prior to the latest incident, on 6 December, with the building sealed off by the national guard.
The explosion occurred at the entrance to the shopping centre at the office of online Ingush media site Magas Life.
The site belongs to Bagaudin Khautiyev — a fellow activist and friend of Khashagulgov’s. Khautiyev was also in the shopping centre at the time of the explosion.
On Thursday morning, Khautiyev was called to Ingushetia’s Centre for Countering Extremism, activist Khasan Katsiyev said on Facebook.
Yevloyeva said that the shopping centre was frequently used by the protest committee and the Ingush Council of Teips (clans) to hold meetings and press conferences.
She noted that a committee meeting had already been scheduled to form a common position regarding Wednesday’s events.
Activists and elders of teips have declared a national period of mourning for the dead and called on all concerned to support the relatives of Muslim Khashagulgov and Ilez Khanyyev by participating in funeral events.