A journalist in Russia’s restive Dagestan republic has been killed in a shooting that investigators and colleagues have linked to his professional work.
Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev was died on Tuesday after gunshots were fired into his car by an unknown gunman near his home on the outskirts of Dagestan’s capital, Makhachkala.
He had received death threats and survived an apparent assassination attempt in January, according to investigators.
Akhmednabiyev, 53, was the deputy editor of Novoye Delo and covered political issues, according to the weekly’s website. His most recent articles focused on the reasons behind nearly daily attacks in the region.
The killing has underscored the risks faced by reporters who challenge the authorities in Dagestan, which is plagued by corruption and an armed insurgency by groups aiming to implement Islamic law.
Akhmednabiyev was the 17th journalist to die in suspicious circumstances in Dagestan since 1993, according to the Caucasian Knot website, for which he worked as a correspondent for seven years.
“This was clearly a targeted killing,” said Grigory Shvedov, editor of the Moscow-based Caucasian Knot, adding that Akhmednabiyev was killed at the same spot where he survived a previous assassination attempt.
The Russian rights group Memorial, which tracks violations in the region, called Akhmednabiyev “one of the few journalists in Dagestan who wrote about the extremes of counter-terrorist operations, about persecution of religious groups, about massive rights violations, about the crimes of the security services”.
“One gets the feeling that somebody is trying to stop even the thin trickle of truth about this aspect of life in Dagestan,” the organisation said in a statement.
Names on a ‘hit list’
In 2009, Akhmednabiyev’s name was on a list of people including lawyers, journalists and activists that was distributed on leaflets In Makhachkala.
The leaflets said those listed would be targeted as revenge for the deaths of security forces and civilians, suggesting the anonymous authors suspected them of backing insurgent fighters.
Another name on the list was Gadzhimurad Kamalov, editor of the independent Chernovik newspaper, who was killed in 2011.
Kamalov’s murder remains unsolved despite calls by the UN human rights agency and media watchdog groups to push ahead with an investigation.
“Russian authorities have made repeated promises to prosecute and prevent attacks on journalists, including in the North Caucasus,” said Tanya Lokshina, Russia programme director at Human Rights Watch.
“But they have a long way to go to show that ‘special control’ means something more than window dressing, and that killers can be brought to account.”