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Attacks target voices of moderate Islam in central Russia

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"Islam is facing major changes in the coming period, and this is very much needed," he said at the time. "Some parts of the Muslim world look like reservations for dictators and totalitarian ways. We hope for a different future."

The official RIA-Novosti agency quoted a source in Tatarstan's security forces as saying they were treating the attacks as a single crime. "It’s evident that these two crimes are directly linked and, most likely, they were performed by the same group," he is quoted as saying. "We are probing all versions, from professional activities to the involvement of so-called religious fanatics."

Stability shifting to instability

Experts say Tatarstan's stability has been slowly unraveling, below the radar screen, for some time.

"What happens here seems minor against the background of the permanent war going on in the northern Caucasus," says Rais Suleymanov, head of the center of religious and ethno-religious studies at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies in Kazan.

"The absence of due attention to the processes going on here means that the processes have not been properly followed or understood in recent times.... We see that Tatarstan is heading down the path leading to a situation like that in Dagestan. In the late 1990s, the same thing happened there, traditional religious leaders were being killed," he says.

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