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Wednesday 8 June 2011 - 1:00am

RAN 29/11, 8 June 2011

PEN International is appalled by the brutal murder of the acclaimed poet Shamil Dzhikayev in North Ossetia last month.
Dzhikayev's decapitated corpse was found on 26 May 2011 in the outskirts of Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, a Russian republic based in the north Caucasus. Four days later, police shot dead his alleged killer, David Murashev, during a gun fight when he had refused to surrender to police. Three officers were injured. Murashev, aged 33, the son of a wealthy businessman who is said to have converted to radical Islam three years earlier, is reported by the Moscow Times to have shouted out that he had murdered the poet for offending his faith before opening fire. A "samurai" style sword allegedly used to kill the poet was found in his home, alongside a "suicide belt" explosives and extremist literature. A number of his friends and contacts were also arrested.

It is believed that the motives for killing Dzhikayev, aged 71, an acclaimed poet and Dean of Philology at North Ossetia University, was a poem that he had written in 2008 that harshly criticised Muslim pilgrims for allegedly urinating on a monument to the those who had died in the siege at a school in Beslan in 2004. Beslan is situated c. 20 km north of Vladikavkaz. Entitled, The Wolf-Cubs set Forth on the Hajj the poem used strong language against Muslim pilgrims, and there were calls at the time that he be prosecuted for inciting inter-religious hatred. The pilgrims in question say that they had alighted at the monument to pray, and not to urinate.