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Imam shot in the head in northern Sweden

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15:41 CET+01:00
A 54-year-old imam was found shot in the head in Strömsund in northwestern Sweden on Wednesday in what police have classified as attempted murder.

Police received a call around 1:30pm on Wednesday afternoon that the man, identified by Sveriges Television (SVT) as Obydkhon Sobitkhony, had been found with gun shot wounds.

“He was shot at least once in the head, but there may have been more shots. He was improving for awhile last night but during the day on Thursday certain complications came up which have made his condition worse,” Östersund police detective Ted Persson told the local Östersunds Posten (ÖP) newspaper on Thursday.

Sobitkhony, who is known by the surname Nazarov, serves as an imam in Strömsund, where he has lived since coming to Sweden in 2006 as a political refugee from Uzbekistan.

He is being treated at hospital in Umeå for what have been described as life threatening injuries.

According to SVT, a gun believed to be used in Wednesday's shooting was found near where Sobitkhony lay and around 30 officers participated in the preliminary investigation by combing the scene for clues and knocking on doors in the vicinity.

“The door knocking as yielded positive results thus far,” Persson told the newspaper.

However, local police have made an appeal to the public for more information about the shooting.

Sobitkhony is a known critic of the regime in Uzbekistan and came to Sweden along with scores of other political refugees after a 2005 crackdown by Uzbek government troops in Andijan in which hundreds of protesters were killed, although the exact number of casualties remains in dispute.

At the time of the incident, known as the Andijan massacre, the Uzbek government claimed the demonstrations were organized by Islamic radicals.

In the wake of the influx of Uzbek refugees, Strömsund, a town of just over 4,000 residents, has seen a rise in hate crimes ranging rom racist graffiti to the burning down of a mosque in the city in 2008.

According to SVT, there were threats against Sobitkhony but, police were unwilling to confirm or deny the existence of threats directed against the imam.

“However, there are threats against other Uzbeks who are currently in Strömsund,” said Persson.

While local police are running the investigation, both Interpol and Swedish security service Säpo have been informed of the incident.

“For the moment, we don't have any suspects, but we do have some forensic evidence,” Persson told ÖP.

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