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Journalist who wrote of suppression of political-religious dissent shot dead in Dagestan

Journalist who wrote of suppression of political-religious dissent shot dead
In this Sunday, September 12, 1999, photo Russian paratroopers wait for the signal to start storming the Dagestani village of Karamakhi. Russia marks 10th anniversary of August 1999 armed incursions to Dagestan province by Islamic militants from Chechnya. Russian forces entered Chechnya weeks after the attacks, starting the second of two post-Soviet wars in the mostly Muslim region and driving its separatist leadership from power.

A journalist known for his critical commentary has been killed in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Dagestan. Abdulmalik Akhmedilov, 32, was shot in his car at around 1 p.m. local time Tuesday on the outskirts of Dagestan's capital, Makhachkala, the independent Caucasus news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported.

The Dagestan Investigative Committee, the region's investigative office, has opened a probe into the murder, the agency reported on its website.

Akhmedilov, known as Malik, was deputy editor of the Makhachkala-based daily Hakikat (The Truth) and a chief editor of the political monthly Sogratl . Both newspapers are published in Avar, the language of the largest ethnic group in the volatile, multiethnic southern republic of Dagestan.

In columns in Hakikat, Akhmedilov sharply criticised federal forces and local law enforcement for suppressing religious and political dissent under the guise of an "anti-extremism" campaign, Zulfiya Gadzhiyeva, a Hakikat journalist, told the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The campaign is ostensibly designed to curb the spread of the conservative form of Islam known as Wahhabism, which has gained popularity in Dagestan and other North Caucasus republics.

According to the Russian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Akhmedilov was known for his investigative reporting into the recent assassinations of Dagestan officials. Akhmedilov did not report receiving any threats, Gadzhiyeva said.

"We express our deepest condolences to Malik Akhmedilov's family and colleagues. Russian authorities must thoroughly examine the possible connection between the journalist's work and his brutal murder," Europe and Central Asia Programme Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "Dagestan is one of the most dangerous places to report in one of the world's deadliest countries for journalists. Authorities must ensure the safety of these reporters."

Gadzhiyeva, who visited the crime scene and met with Akhmedilov's wife and neighbours, said at least one killer was parked in the editor's neighbourhood in a Lada sedan with tinted windows and no license plates. When Akhmedilov left home in his car for an errand, the Lada followed and at least one gunman fired, Gadzhiyeva told CPJ.

Gadzhiyeva told CPJ that Akhmedilov's neighbours had seen the same Lada parked in the neighborhood for at least two days prior to the killing. Akhmedilov did not have any business interests; journalism was his sole occupation, she said.

Over the last few years, a number of journalists have been murdered in Dagestan, according to RIA-Novosti. In September 2008, unidentified assailants shot television commentator Telman Aleshayev, who died the next day in hospital.

On March 21, 2008, two Dagestani journalists were murdered. Ilyas Shurpayev, a TV correspondent for Russia's state television Channel 1, was found murdered in his rental apartment. A few hours later, assailants opened fire on a car driven by the head of Dagestan's state television and radio company GRRK, Gadji Abashilov. In 2005, Zagid Varisov, a columnist for Dagestan's Novoe Delo (New Deal) newspaper was murdered in a drive-by shooting.

The International Federation of Journalists said in a report published in June that 313 Russian journalists had been killed in the country since 1993. It stated that 124 had died as a direct result of their work.

Date posted: August 12, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 796