File photo of Ingush leader Yunus-Bek
Yevkurov is seen recieving the Russian Order of Military Merit at the
Kremlin in Moscow on May 20. Yevkurov, was wounded in an assassination
attempt, officials said. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)
MOSCOW, June 22 (Xinhua) -- The leader of Russia's turbulent southern republic of Ingushetia, Yunus-bek Yevkurov, has been hospitalized after being injured in a bomb attack against his motorcade, Russian news agencies reported on Monday.
"A car bomb was set off at about 08:20 Moscow time (0420 GMT), when a motorcade of the Ingush president was going by the highway," the Itar-Tass news agency quoted an officer from the republic's Interior Ministry as saying.
The attempted assassination was staged on the Caucasus Highway in the Nasyr-Kortovo Municipal District, said Itar-Tass.
"A car, possibly a Lexus, was moving slowly on the side of the Kavkaz federal motorway, on which the presidential motorcade was traveling at that moment," the Interfax news agency quoted a source from the republic's law enforcement services as saying.
"Its driver then made an abrupt maneuver, placing his car almost in the middle of the motorcade. A powerful explosion occurred immediately after it," he said.
The explosive device used in the attack was equivalent to some 70 kg of TNT, said Interfax citing investigation committee of Russian Prosecutor General's office.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev immediately held a meeting with Federal Security Service head Alexander Bortnikov and Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev on the situation following the attempted assassination.
"A terrorist act has taken place in Ingushetia -- an attempt on the life of Ingushetian President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov. This was done by militants, of course," the Interfax quoted Medvedev as saying at the opening of the meeting.
Medvedev, who ordered the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service to investigate the attack, said he would send his envoy to Ingushetia to closely watch the situation.
Yevkurov, 45, was a former intelligence official who became the republic's president last October.
Yevkurov's brother and the chief of his bodyguards were also injured and hospitalized, said Interfax citing the press service of the republic's Interior Ministry.
"It is already known that the president himself, his brother and the head of the security service sustained injuries as a result of this explosion. They have been hospitalized and are now being treated by doctors. The information available to us confirms that the president's life is not in danger," the press service said.
Earlier, the Interfax quoted Prosecutor of Ingushetia Yury Turtygin as saying that "a team of operatives and investigators is working at the scene," and information about other casualties was being checked.
Press service of the Ingush leader was cited by Interfax as saying that Yevkurov, who received injury of medium gravity, underwent a surgery in Nazran hospital. His life was now out of danger.
A spokesman for the hospital said Yevkurov had concussion and fractured ribs.
Yevkurov's advisor Mussa Pliyev confirmed that the leader was in "complex but stable" condition, and "he has not lost consciousness."
Meanwhile three bodyguards were also hospitalized, one of whom was in critical condition, said Interfax.
News agencies reported earlier that three of Yevkurov's bodyguards died, while the president was only slightly injured.
"The president was slightly wounded by the blast of a powerful explosive device planted in the roadside. His life is out of danger. Early reports indicate that at least three of his bodyguards died," said a source from the Ingush Interior Ministry.
Meanwhile the RIA Novosti reported citing an unnamed Russian security source that Yevkurov was in serious condition after the attempted assassination, and at least four people were killed, five others injured in the blast.
Militant attacks and clashes remain frequent in the North Caucasus republics, especially Ingushetia and Daghestan, despite increased stability under Chechnya's Kremlin-backed regional President Ramzan Kadyrov.
The Kremlin in April formally ended an anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya, which has experienced two bloody separatist wars over the last 15 years.
Mikhail Grishankov, deputy head of the State Duma security committee, said the attack was against Yevkurov's bid to end a spiral of violence in the republic.
"Ingushetia's new president has been doing everything to normalize the situation in the republic," the RIA Novosti cited him as saying.