Senegalese student killed in Russia

A Senegalese student was killed in St. Petersburg on Friday, apparently with a shotgun decorated with a swastika, investigators said, in the latest in a series of attacks on foreigners and dark-skinned migrants in Russia . Lamzar Samba, a 28-year-old, fifth-year student at the St. Petersburg State Communications University , was attacked outside a night club popular with African students early Friday, said Desire Deffo, deputy head of the African Unity group in St. Petersburg .

A hunting gun found at the scene was decorated with a swastika, and prosecutors had concluded the attack was racially motivated, deputy city prosecutor Andrei Lavrenko said in televised comments. Prosecutors' spokeswoman Yelena Ordynskaya told The Associated Press that Samba was killed by a single shot to the neck.

Michel Tanobian, who had joined Samba and five friends at the club, said they were on their way home when they heard a loud noise. The students started running away, but realized one of them was missing, he said in televised comments. "And then we saw his body," Tanobian said on NTV.

The channel broadcast footage of what it said was Samba's bloodied body covered with a dark blue tarp lying on the ground, a hand and leg protruding. "How can people be so evil? We come here just to study, for nothing else. We don't take anything here," Tanobian said. "First I didn't believe it, then I ran here and saw his face I am in shock!" witness Irina Balakina said in televised comments.

University officials condemned the attack. First deputy dean Lev Koncharovsky called the shooting "a horrific, outrageous act of brutality, which has been unseen in the institute's 75-year-old history," the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted him as saying. The Foreign Ministry on Friday issued a statement expressing condolences to Samba's relatives and friends.

Russia has seen a marked rise in xenophobia and racism in recent years, with a series of attacks on dark-skinned migrants, foreigners and Jews, particularly in St. Petersburg . Rights groups say authorities do little or nothing to combat the crimes.

Last month, a court in St. Petersburg sentenced seven teenagers to prison terms ranging from 1 1/2 to 5 1/2 years in connection with the 2004 stabbing death of a 9-year-old Tajik girl. One 16-year-old was initially charged with murder, but a jury later reduced the charge to hooliganism  a decision that outraged rights activists.

Also last month, a man who stabbed worshippers at a synagogue in downtown Moscow shouting "I will kill Jews" was sentenced to 13 years in prison. The racist attacks in St. Petersburg have cast a shadow over Russia 's second largest city as it prepares to host a summit of leaders from the Group of Eight major industrialized nations in July. The attacks are also likely to raise more concerns over Russia 's ability to fight racism and promote tolerance.

Russia this year holds the rotating chairmanship of the G-8. What's happening in St. Petersburg "is a demonstration of some kind of savagery and monstrous blindness to racist hate," Natalya Yeliseyeva, of the Association for International Cooperation, was quoted as saying by ITAR-Tass, reports the AP.

N.U.