The attack on Nazarov is believed to have taken place at around 12 noon today as the imam was returning home from mid-day prayers.
According to one of the injured man’s close associates, his as-yet unidentified attacker had been lying in wait for Nazarov near the entrance to his home in Stromsund and began shooting at him as he approached the building.
The injured Nazarov began shouting loudly for help, and as his grandson ran to his aid, the attacker reportedly ran away. Later, police found the silencer from a gun near the scene of the shooting which could have been thrown away by the man who shot Nazarov.
The imam was taken to hospital, where he underwent an operation. His associate says that his condition is serious but stable.
The same associate declined to conjecture as to who Nazarov’s assailant may have been. Other followers of the cleric say that they know nothing of Nazarov’s current condition and that the Swedish police advised them not to pass on any information about what had happened.
Obid-kori Nazarov, who has lived in Sweden since 2006, is viewed by the Uzbek authorities as one of the most outspoken critics of President Islam Karimov and his regime.
Tashkent has accused the imam of setting up and running an extremist religious organisation, guilty of plotting terrorist acts and other crimes within Uzbekistan including murders and attacks on people over a period of more than ten years.
Nazarov himself has always refuted these accusations, saying that he became a victim of Karimov’s dictatorial regime after he refused to organise his religious activity according to Presidential demands.
“We, like journalists, suffer because of our freedom of speech,” Nazarov said in an interview with Uznews.net in 2007.
Until he was granted political asylum in Sweden in 2006 Nazarov had been in hiding for several years in Kazakhstan.
He was forced to escape from there in autumn 2005 when Kazakhstan’s special security forces arrested several of his associates and handed them over to Uzbekistan. Among those captured was the eminent cleric Rukhiddin Fahruddinov.
But Nazarov never felt safe even when he was living in Sweden. His associates chose not to tell other followers where he lived, and in the last five years he has moved towns a number of times.
Fearing for his life, Nazarov rarely went out alone and was always accompanied by a small group of his relatives and followers. On the day he was shot, he was returning home on his own, which is a very rare occurrence, one of his associates says.