Sat, Dec 17, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Leading journalist shot dead in North Caucasus

AP, MAKHACHKALA, RUSSIA

The founder of a newspaper critical of authorities in the restive province of Dagestan in Russia’s North Caucasus has died after being riddled with bullets outside his office, police said yesterday.

Khadzhimurad Kamalov’s leading independent weekly paper Chernovik (“Rough Draft”) has reported extensively on police abuses in the fight against an Islamist insurgency that originated in neighboring Chechnya and has spread across the region.

Kamalov founded the weekly in 2003, worked as its editor for several years and was its publisher until his killing late on Thursday.

Vyacheslav Gasanov, a spokesman for the Russian Interior Minister in Dagestan, said a masked gunman riddled Kamalov with bullets outside the office in the provincial capital, Makhachkala. Kamalov died of his wounds at a local hospital shortly after.

Chechen rebels have fought two separatist wars against Russian forces since 1994. Major battles in the second war subsided about a decade ago, but the Islamist insurgency has engulfed neighboring provinces, stoked by poverty and corruption.

Rights activists accuse security services of fueling the violence with arbitrary arrests, torture and extra-judicial killings of militant suspects.

Dagestan, the largest and most ethnically diverse of Russia’s mostly-Muslim provinces in the North Caucasus, has evolved into the main breeding ground for terror, with near daily attacks on police and other authorities.

Kavkazsky Uzel (“Caucasian Knot”), a leading online news resource on the region, said Kamalov’s name was on a list of militants and their “accomplices” that has been released since 2009 by anonymous authors vowing to avenge dead police and security officers.

Chernovik’s editor Nadira Isayeva was presented with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award last year.

The committee hailed the paper’s relentless reporting on the heavy-handed tactics of security agencies in the fight against Islamic militancy. It said Isayeva and the newspaper were regularly harassed with official summonses, financial audits and state-commissioned “linguistic analyses” that label content as extremist.

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