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MOSCOW (Reuters) - An opposition activist from Russia's Ingushetia region was shot dead in his car on Sunday in the latest sign of rising violence in the North Caucasus.
Maksharip Aushev, a local businessman, was driving near the town of Nalchik in the nearby region of Kabardino-Balkaria when his car was hit by gunfire, the opposition website said, confirming earlier agency reports.
The attack with automatic weapons took place on a main road, but the full circumstances remained unclear, the website stated.
Aushev was a strong critic of the region's former president, Murat Zyazikov, but had good relations with Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, the Kremlin appointee who took over the position a year ago. Yevkurov was seriously injured in a June bomb blast.
Yevkurov said the killing was an attempt to destabilize the situation in Ingushetia and said he would personally take charge of the investigation.
"I promise to do everything in my power to solve this crime," Yevkurov said on his official website, describing Aushev as someone who was well-known and respected in the region.
Attacks in the North Caucasus regions under Moscow's control have risen sharply this year.
Analysts say the attacks, blamed by the government on Muslim insurgents backed by foreign cash, threaten Moscow's control over the volatile southern region, which is plagued by poverty and corruption.
The worst hit areas have been Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya where Russia has fought two wars against separatists since 1994.
Aushev had been close to another prominent local opposition activist, Magomed Yevloyev, who was detained and killed by local police in August 2008.
The website Ingushetia.org said the deaths of the two men were linked.
"Anyone who dared to speak against the authorities or speak the truth, is doomed to the fate shared by Magomed and Maksharip."
(Reporting by Conor Sweeney; editing by Michael Roddy)