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Ingush counterterror head shot dead in Moscow

12 November 2019
Ibragim Eldzherkiyev. Photo: Kavkaz.realii

Ibragim Eldzherkiyev, the head of the Centre for Combating Extremism in the Russian republic of Ingushetia, and his brother Akhmed Eldzherkiyev were shot dead on 2 November in Moscow in an apparent assassination. 

CCTV footage of the attack released by news outlet Baza shows a man gunning down Ibragim Eldzherkiyev, and then moments later his brother, who emerges from a nearby car. 

Police announced later that day that they were searching for the perpetrator in Moscow, and that they had not yet apprehended any suspects.

Russian newspaper RBC cited a source familiar with the investigation as saying that the authorities believed it to be a contract killing.

The sourced is reported as saying, ‘the killer knew that Ibrahim Eldzharkiyev would come to Moscow to study at the Academy of National Economy and stay at his brother’s apartment’.

The day after the murders, a criminal case was launched. The same day police announced that they had nine suspects in the case and have singled out one, Kureysh Kartoyev, as being of particular interest.

Authorities are currently asking for the public’s help to apprehend Kartoyev. According to the Telegram channel Wanted Ingushetia, he has, so far, managed to elude police.

‘Vendetta’

Ibragim Eldzherkiyev headed the Center for Combating Extremism in Ingushetia since December 2016. The Center is under the Ministry of the Interior of Ingushetia. The centre’s stated purpose is to combat ‘extremist activity’.

Eldzherkiyev replaced Timur Khamkhoyev in this position, after the latter was detained and subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of extortion and torture of detainees.

[Read more on OC Media: Seven officials sentenced in Ingush anti-extremism centre torture case]

OC Media’s source in Ingushetia’s Ministry of the Interior, who wished to remain anonymous, believes that the murder of the head of the anti-extremism centre was the result of a blood feud that developed as a result of a conflict with the Batalkhadzhins, a mono-ethnic religious group living in Ingushetia.

Batalkhadzhins are followers of the Ingush sheikh Batal-Hadji Belkharoyev. 

Grigory Shvedov, the editor-in-chief of the Caucasian Knot, has described the Batalkhadzhins ‘a specific collective, around which there is a lot of myth-making that criminalizes the group.’

According to him, Belkharoyev’s supporters had tense relations not so much with the anti-extremism center as with the administration of Yunusbek Evkurov, who headed Ingushetia until this summer.

‘People started talking about this when it came to revising the border with Chechnya. It became clear that there are groups in Ingushetia whose views are closer to those of the Chechens’, Shvedov said. 

‘Specifically’, he added. ‘Belkharoyev’s supporters were accused of the fact that among them there are many people who maintain relations with [Head of the Chechen Republic] Ramzan Kadyrov and his associates,’ 

The head of the Batalhadzhin community, Ibragim Belkharoyev, was shot dead on the night of 31 December 2018. 

According to the Telegram channel Fortang, several days after Belkharoyev’s killing, the first attempt on Eldzherkiyev’s life was made. It took place when he was he leaving Grozny after a meeting with Speaker of the Chechen Parliament Magomed Daudov. One of Eldzherkiyev’s bodyguards was killed and three others were injured in the attack. 

Eldzherkiyev escaped unscathed.

According to OC Media’s source, the Batalkhadzhins believed that Eldzherkiyev was behind the murder of Belkharoyev. 

According to the source, Eldzherkiyev was usually accompanied by bodyguards but did not use their services in Moscow, ‘and the perpetrators probably knew about it’.

According to Baza, the conflict between Belkharoyev and Eldzharkiyev could have occurred because Eldzharkiyev did not agree to ‘cover up [Belkharoyev’s] drug business’.

Speaking to RBC, Shvedov said that the Belkharoyev’s supporters ‘are quite capable of translating such an incident into a personal issue’ and added that they have never given up the practice of blood feuds.

Interrogations in the village of Ekazhevo

The Ingush Telegram channel Glavkom RI reports that immediately after the reports of the murder of Eldzherkiyev brothers, the members of the Batalkhadzhin community started celebrating the death on social networks, and claimed that in the rural villages of Ekazhevo and Surkhakhi, where most Batalkhadzhins live the deaths were celebrated with fireworks.

‘At a minimum, this indicates that the Batalkhadzhins really considered Eldzherkiyev to be one of the key figures in organising of the assassination of Ibragim Belkharoyev,’ the channel’s source reportedly said.

According to Telegram  news outlet YugMBKmedia, law enforcement has been looking into fireworks launched in the village of Ekazhevo on the night of the death of the Eldzherkiyev brothers. Several locals have been interrogated  on 7 November. 

According to YugMBKmedia, the main suspect, Kureysh Kartoyev, is a native of this village.

Mikail Yevloyev, the head of the Ekazhevo village administration, confirmed to the Telegram news outlet Mash that the investigators interrogated all the villagers who celebrated that night. 

Local resident Magomed Kartoyev told Mash that he shot the fireworks to celebrate a personal victory: the morning of the day of the murder he was summoned to the police department because of a different case and was released in the afternoon.

Kartoyev said that he was not familiar with the alleged killer, and the fact that they live on the same street is nothing more than a coincidence.

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