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Second Chechen exile is murdered in 'contract hit'



Killing: Police tape at the scene where the man was shot dead in Gerasdorf, Austria. Photo: Ronald Zak

Killing: Police tape at the scene where the man was shot dead in Gerasdorf, Austria. Photo: Ronald Zak


Killing: Police tape at the scene where the man was shot dead in Gerasdorf, Austria. Photo: Ronald Zak

A Chechen man has been shot dead in Austria in the second apparent contract killing of critics of the Chechen government this year.

The 43-year-old Russian national was shot on an open road near Vienna on Saturday and two suspects in the attack have been arrested, Austrian police said yesterday.

The alleged killer was detained after a chase through the city of Linz, while a second man was held yesterday after he was initially called in as a witness.

Police said the motive of the crime was "unclear" but they were treating the killing as a possible terrorist act.

Austrian police described the victim as an asylum seeker named Martin B. He was identified by Russian media as Mamikhan Umarov, who assumed the name of Martin Beck after moving to Austria.

Chechnya, a Russian republic in the North Caucasus region, went through two devastating separatist wars in the 1990s before the Kremlin struck a deal with a rebel leader who ruled until he was assassinated in 2004. His son, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been at the helm since then, creating a fiefdom that he rules with an iron fist.

Mr Kadyrov has faced many accusations of extrajudicial killings, torture and beatings, all of which he denies.

Some of his opponents have died in mysterious circumstances while living in exile abroad.

The murder of Mr Umarov follows an increasing wave of killings and attacks on Chechen dissidents in Europe.

Imran Aliyev, an outspoken Chechen blogger, was stabbed to death in a hotel room in Lille, France, in January. French police suspected a political motive behind the killing but did not name any suspects.

Mr Umarov, who had been living in exile for nearly 20 years, had a popular YouTube blog where he was critical of the Chechen government.

In an interview on Ukrainian television in February, he claimed he had been approached by emissaries of Mr Kadyrov's inner circle about organising contract killings of high-profile Chechen critics abroad.

Mr Umarov claimed to have been passing information to Austrian intelligence about those plans and said he had warned potential victims. One of them was shot dead in October 2017 in Ukraine, while her husband survived.

Musa Lomayev, another Chechen exile in Europe, told the TV Rain channel yesterday he was confident that Mr Umarov was the victim of a contract killing.

"I have no doubt that this man was killed on Kadyrov's orders because he used to tell me Kadyrov placed a $10m bounty on his head," he said.

In August last year, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former rebel fighter, was gunned down by a Russian man in central Berlin, a killing Germany's prosecutor general said appeared to have been commissioned either by Moscow or Chechnya.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)