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Moldova shootout suspect dies in custody, airport security probed

A man accused of killing two security officials in a shootout last week at Moldova’s main airport died of multiple gunshot wounds on Monday (3 July), as authorities in the ex-Soviet state ordered an enquiry into beefing up airport security.

President Maia Sandu declared Tuesday (4 July) a day of mourning and ordered flags to be flown at half staff after last Friday’s (30 June) incident. Posthumous medals were awarded to the two victims.

An official statement, quoting police, announced the death of Rustam Asurov, 43, a native of Tajikistan, who seized a gun from a security officer after being refused entry to Moldova.

He was accused of killing two officers and briefly taking hostages before being overpowered by a security team. He had suffered 10 gunshot wounds and never regained consciousness.

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Asurov had arrived in Chisinau from Istanbul and was being led away to an area of the airport to be put on a return flight – with five others refused entry – when shooting broke out.

Prosecutors initially classed the incident as a terrorist act but investigators working with officials in Tajikistan, an ex-Soviet state in Central Asia, determined he was wanted in connection with the abduction last month of a banking officer.

They also established that the suspect had been sentenced to 13 years in prison for his part in the 2012 armed robbery of a foreign exchange outlet, making off with nearly $100,000 in a sports equipment bag. He was released in 2019 as part of a broad presidential amnesty.

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The prosecutor general’s office announced an investigation into “the failure or improper performance of duties by persons involved in ensuring the security of the airport”.

Moldovan politician Renato Usatii said it was clear authorities had been unprepared for such an incident.

A single border guard had been tasked with escorting the group of six through the airport, he said in a video posted on social media, while it should have been clear after two hours of consultations the sort of individual they were dealing with.

Normal operations have resumed at the airport, which is now used frequently by passengers from neighbouring Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of their country.

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