Eight killed in Russia gangland murder: officials

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Russian investigators said Friday they had found eight people shot dead in the city of Stavropol, in an apparent gangland killing in the country's crime-ridden south.

"Corpses of eight people -- three women and five men -- have been found in a garage," the Interfax news agency quoted Yekaterina Danilova, a spokeswoman for local investigators, as saying.

Interfax quoted a source as saying that the authorities believed the mass murder was the result of a fight between local criminal gangs.

Late last year Russia was shaken when members of such a gang broke into a house in the village of Kushchevskaya in the nearby Krasnodar region, stabbing 10 people to death and suffocating two others in a bloodbath that lasted one-and-a-half hours.

News reports said the latest victims included a criminal boss and his mistress. Miraculously, a month-old baby and an eight-year-old child were found alive at the scene, sources told Russian news agencies.

State-run RIA Novosti news agency, citing a local law enforcement source, said the victims were a local criminal boss known as Khan and his family.

It said Khan was one of the top bosses in Russia's criminal underworld.

Interfax news agency, also quoting a law enforcement source, called Khan a businessman, adding that his wife was shot dead five years ago.

"That's the second attempt to kill him," a law enforcement source told RIA Novosti.

"He died along with his mistress, children, and people from his circle."

Another source, speaking to the news agency, identified the criminal boss as Vladimir Slezayev, indicating he had caused the wrath of the local criminal underworld by misspending their money.

The city of Stavropol lies on the northern edge of the Caucasus, scene of a simmering guerrilla conflict between Russian forces and separatist rebels, and is close to the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, where Russia is hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics Games.

The Kushchevskaya murder triggered a massive wave of soul-searching after the investigation showed that officials for years turned a blind eye to an all-powerful criminal group that terrorised locals.

© 2011 AFP

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