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Daghestani Journalist's Killing Raises Question: Who Will Be Next?

Journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev was gunned down on July 9 on the outskirts of the Daghestani capital, Makhachkala.
Journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev was gunned down on July 9 on the outskirts of the Daghestani capital, Makhachkala.
Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev, deputy editor and political commentator for the independent Russian-language weekly "Novoye delo" and a regular contributor to the website Kavkaz-Uzel, was shot dead early on July 9 close to his home on the outskirts of Makhachkala. He was at least the 13th journalist to be gunned down in Daghestan since 1992; none of the earlier killings, including that of Gadzhimurad Kamalov, editor of the weekly "Chernovik," in December 2011 has been solved.

Both law-enforcement agencies and other media professionals assume that Akhmednabiyev was killed because of his professional activities. He wrote extensively about human-rights violations -- including abductions and torture by the police of suspected Islamic militants -- but also about local Daghestani politics, such as the situation in the western Akhvakh district where he practiced as a doctor in his native village of Karata.

One of Akhmednabiyev’s last articles highlighted protests in Akhvakh in April-May that demanded the resignation of district administrator Ismail Magomedsharipov. Other recent articles discussed the detention by police in late April in Kizlyar of a wedding cortege that displayed Islamic banners, and a recent initiative to unite Daghestan's construction workers in an independent union.

"Novoye delo" editor in chief Gadzhimurad Sagitov described Akhmednabiyev's writing as "honest and frank," noting at the same time that he never stooped to ad hominem attacks.

Akhmednabiyev was one of eight journalists named in a "death list" circulated in Makhachkala in late summer 2009 who had been earmarked for retribution for their imputed connivance in the killing of police and security personnel by members of the Islamic insurgency. The list, which contained some 250 names, was drawn up by relatives of the slain police officers.

Akhmednabiyev had narrowly escaped death six months ago when unknown perpetrators opened fire on him from precisely the same spot where he was finally killed. The prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into the willful destruction of property and the illegal possession of firearms, but not into attempted murder.

After Akhmednabiyev's lawyer, Abdurashid Sheykhov, appealed that refusal in a local court, Daghestan’s Supreme Court ruled in April that the prosecutor's office should open an attempted-murder investigation, but it failed to do so for reasons that remain unclear.

Daghestani Prosecutor-General Andrei Nazarov has since been transferred to Bashkortostan. Similarly unclear is why law-enforcement agencies failed to try and trace the sender of threatening SMS messages Akhmednabiyev had received in recent months.

In light of the focus of Akhmednabiyev’s reporting, and the inclusion of his name on the 2009 death list, suspicion inevitably falls on law-enforcement agencies. Acting republic of Daghestan President Ramazan Abdulatipov was quoted as attributing the murder to "those for whom neither moral nor human norms exist," presumably meaning the North Caucasus insurgency, even though its members had no obvious reason to target Akhmednabiyev.

A further possibility is that Akhmednabiyev was killed by one or another political interest groups out to undermine and discredit Abdulatipov in the run-up to the election by the republic’s parliament of a successor to Magomedsalam Magomedov, whom Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed as president of Daghestan in late January.

Several of the more than 170 journalists who bore Akhmednabiyev’s body in procession through Makhachkala on the day he died carried placards with the rhetorical question "Who will be next?"

Kavkaz-Uzel has offered a reward of 200,000 rubles ($6,077) for information on the identity of Akhmednabiyev’s killers.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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