MOSCOW (Reuters) - The senior Islamic official in Russia's largely Muslim Tatarstan region was wounded in a bomb attack and a deputy was killed in a separate shooting on Thursday, rocking a province seen as a showcase of religious tolerance in Russia.Tatarstan's mufti, Ildis Faizov, was hospitalised after three powerful blasts threw him from a vehicle in Tatarstan's capital Kazan, the federal Investigative Committee said.
Reuters television footage showed the vehicle engulfed in flames and billowing smoke on a wide, green-lined avenue in central Kazan, a popular destination for tourists from Moscow, about 735 km (450 miles) east of Russia's capital.
Around the same time, deputy mufti Valiulla Yakupov was shot dead outside his home, the Investigative Committee said.
Militants fighting to carve an Islamic state out of a strip of mainly Muslim regions of the Caucasus along Russia's southern flank sometimes target mainstream Muslim leaders, who are backed by the authorities.
Leaders of the insurgency in the Caucasus have issued appeals to Muslims in other regions of the predominantly Orthodox Christian country, where Muslims are a minority of about 15 percent, to join their fight.
But Tatarstan, home to a large central mosque in Kazan, is relatively peaceful.
Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NAK) said in a statement it suspected the attacks were related to what it called the mufti's work "countering the spread of religious radicalism" in the region.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks.
Police in Kazan said they had heightened security and increased law enforcement forces on the streets, the Interfax news agency reported.
Islamic militants in the Caucasus, whose insurgency is rooted in two wars against separatists in the Chechnya province since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, stage near daily attacks across the mountainous Caucasus region.
They have been blamed or claimed responsibility for a handful of large-scale attacks outside the region, including a suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport that killed 37 people in January 2011 and twin bombings that killed 40 people in the Moscow subway in 2010.