Russia sends top investigator to probe gangland murder

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Russia's top investigator was on Saturday dispatched to probe a gangland murder in the crime-infested south where eight bodies were found with gunshot wounds, with two children miraculously escaping death.

Moscow-based investigators said Friday evening they received information that corpses of five men and three women with gunshot wounds had been found in a garage in the city of Stavropol.

The latest mass killing comes on the heels of a similar murder in the nearby Krasnodar region, when a gang broke into a house in the village of Kushchevskaya, stabbed 10 people to death and suffocated two others in a bloodbath that lasted one-and-a-half hours.

In a sign of the significance authorities were attaching to the latest case, the Moscow-based Investigative Committee said on Saturday its chief Alexander Bastrykin had been dispatched to Stavropol to oversee the probe.

"A special task force will be created for the investigation of the murder of eight people," the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

Authorities indicated Saturday that the bodies with gunshot and stab wounds found in a garage of a private household were the result of a fight between local criminal gangs.

Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Moscow-based investigators, said unidentified assailants had targeted the family of a local criminal boss, Vladimir Slezayev.

"He was engaged in illegal turnover of narcotic substances" and was repeatedly imprisoned, Markin said in televised remarks.

"Along with him, members of his family, a driver and household help have been found," Markin said, adding that unspecified valuables were also missing from Slezayev's home.

Russian news agencies, citing law enforcement sources, reported Friday night that the criminal boss was nicknamed Khan and might have incurred the wrath of the local criminal underworld by misspending their money.

Miraculously, a month-old baby and an eight-year-old child were found alive at the scene, television reports said.

Russian television said it was the family's gardener who had stumbled upon the bodies in the garage.

Television footage showed the gardener, a middle-aged man in a black fedora, trying to hide his face from cameras and refusing to talk.

"Do you think I am not scared?" he said in televised remarks. "I do not want to be the ninth."

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.

© 2011 AFP

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