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World News

FACTBOX: Key facts about Russia's region of Ingushetia

(Reuters) - The head of Russia’s Ingushetia region was fighting for his life on Tuesday after a suicide bomb dealt a fresh blow to Kremlin attempts to quell unrest in the North Caucasus.

Below are some key facts about Ingushetia:

* The smallest region in Russia, Ingushetia is wedged between North Ossetia and Chechnya. It has a population of around half a million.

* Ingushetia is one of Russia’s poorest regions with an estimated unemployment rate of over 50 percent as of March this year.

Over 90 percent of Ingushetia’s revenue comes in the form of subsidies from Moscow, but rights groups and the opposition say the subsidies have been siphoned off by corrupt local officials.

* The Sufi branch of Islam is Ingushetia’s main religion. It is one of 21 republics within Russia and has nominal autonomy with its own president, parliament and constitution.

* The Soviet Union lumped Ingushetia and Chechnya together, but following its 1991 fall, Chechnya declared independence and Ingushetia chose to become a republic within Russia.

* Relations between Ingushetia and North Ossetia are strained. Paramilitary groups fought a brief war in 1992 over a disputed district. Hundreds died and thousands became refugees.

* Ruslan Aushev was Ingushetia’s president from 1992-2001. He steered Ingushetia away from the conflict in Chechnya, where rebels fought federal forces in two wars from 1994. Backed by Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Murat Zyazikov, an ex-KGB general, took over as president in 2002.

In October last year, President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, a 45-year-old paratroop general, as the region’s new boss. Yevkurov clamped down on local corrupt officials and proposed a poverty reduction program in a bid to prevent many from yielding to radical Islam.

* During the second Chechen war which began in 1999, Ingushetia was the destination for thousands of Chechen refugees.

Since 2002, Russian special forces have cracked down on rebels in Ingushetia. Around 90 people died in a rebel attack on the city of Nazran in 2004.

Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton

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