The explosions in Ingushetia on Thursday, which officials said also killed a driver and wounded two others, were the latest sign of growing violence across the restive North Caucasus.

Ingushetia region Prime Minister Ibragim Malsagov was hospitalised after the attack in the city of Nazran, but his life was not in danger, Kremlin regional envoy Fyodor Shcherbakov said.

Malsagov, the region's second highest-ranking official, was wounded in the hand and the leg, said spokesman Nikolai Ivashkevich of the southern regional branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry.

Malsagov's driver was killed and two others were injured, he said, but did not give further details about the other victims.

The two explosives, placed about 10-15 metres apart, detonated within 10 seconds of each other near one of the city's outdoor markets as the prime minister's motorcade passed, the top regional police official Interior Minister Beslan Khamkhoyev said.

Russian television networks showed footage of what appeared to be Malsagov's black Mercedes, its rear window a maze of cracked glass, and of a deep crater by the roadside.

Nazran is the main city in the Ingushetia region, which has suffered frequent spill over violence from neighbouring Chechnya to the east, as well as attacks by its own rebels and criminal gangs.

International terrorism 

Some 90 people were killed in an
assault against police last June

The top prosecutor for southern Russia, Deputy Prosecutor

General Nikolai Shepel, said in televised comments that the

attack seemed to have "the same signature" as other terrorist attacks that have struck the North Caucasus, adding: "I mean the international organisations that unfortunately are present in the south of Russia."

 

Russian authorities are eager to link their fight against rebels in the North Caucasus with the international war against terror, and often point to alleged international involvement in attacks in the region.

 

Government critics say flawed Kremlin ethnic policy and

corruption among regional leaders are major causes of the

violence.

 

Other attacks

 

Last week, Nazran police chief Dzhabrail Kostoyev was

wounded when unknown assailants detonated a radio-controlled land mine as his car was passing.

 

The republic's police and security forces were also

targeted in a devastating overnight assault by rebels in

June 2004, in which some 90 people were killed.

Chechen
rebel leader Shamil Basayev claimed responsibility for that attack and for the hostage crisis that killed more than 330 people last September at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, which borders both Chechnya and Ingushetia.

 

The republic on Chechnya's eastern border, Dagestan, also

has been plagued by frequent bombings and other attacks

targeting government and law enforcement officials.

 

Authorities in other republics of the North Caucasus have

battled rebels and analysts have expressed concern that major violence could break out in the region even as Russian and local government officials assert that life is returning to

normal in Chechnya, devastated by two separatist wars in

the past decade.