Russia arrests mastermind of village massacre: official

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Russia has arrested the mastermind of the slaughter of 12 people in a house in a farming village reportedly terrorised for years by organised crime, officials said on Monday.

In a crime that stunned Russia, a criminal gang stabbed to death 10 victims and suffocated two others in the seemingly quiet village of Kushchevskaya in the southern Krasnodar region. Four children were among the dead.

Investigators had already announced the arrest of four young people -- including two teenagers -- suspected of being members of the criminal group behind the crime.

"The leader of the criminal group Sergei Tsapok was arrested as part of the enquiry into the massacre," a spokesman for the investigative committee of prosecutors told AFP.

The police have also arrested another member of the group suspected of the crime, named as Sergei Tsepovyaz, the official added.

A statement from the investigative committee said that Tsapok was suspected of being the "organiser" of the massacre.

"Investigators are looking at evidence about the activities of a criminal group in the Krasnodar region which they are receiving from locals," the statement added.

According to reports in the Russian press, Tsapok had formed a criminal gang of several dozen members which had terrorised the region for 20 years with the police powerless or unwilling to intervene.

The house belonged to a farmer named Serever Ametov, 51, who had invited a group of friends to celebrate Russia's National Unity Day on November 4 and then stay over. The bodies were found on November 5.

Ametov, his wife Galina, his daughter-in-law Yelena and granddaughter Amira, who was born this year, were all killed.

Another of the dead Vladimir Mironenko, was the finance director at leading Russian agricultural firm Aston, and there has been speculation the killings could have been linked to his business activities.

The massacre in total claimed the lives of six members of the Mironenko family.

The Krasnodar region lies just northwest of Russia's troubled Caucasus mountains and includes the Black Sea city of Sochi, which is to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

© 2010 AFP

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