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22 Mar, 2008 02:07

Killing of two journalists shocks Russian media

Two Dagestani journalists have been killed in separate incidents in Russia on Friday. The head of Dagestan's State TV and Radio Company, Gadzhi Abashilov, was shot in the city of Makhachkala. The other, First Channel correspondent Ilyas Shurpayev, was fou

According to reports, Gadzhi Abashilov was in a car with his driver in the capital of the southern Russian republic when gunmen opened fire from a passing vehicle.

Shamil Mutayev from the regional investigation says “What we know so far is that Abashilov came to a shop to buy some items”.

“He and his driver left the shop and got into their car. Most likely the gunmen tracked Abashilov's route. His car has been shot at from a passing car. After the killing, the gunmen left their car and tried to set it on fire but failed. Then they fled. Most likely the killing was linked with his professional activities,” Mutayev said.

A criminal investigation has been launched. Police have searched the scene of the shooting. Officers later found the car used by the gunmen. Russia's Prosecutor General has taken personal control of the case.

The murder follows the death of another journalist from Dagestan, Ilyas Shurpayev. Although he had a number of stab wounds, a medical examination revealed the real cause of his death was strangulation.

Earlier, a Dagestani news agency reported a major conflict between journalists and management at a popular local newspaper. The journalists said they were being forced to produce negative reports about Dagestan’s government and president. There was also a blacklist of people who were barred from appearing in the paper. Both Abashilov and Shurpayev were on the list.

The police in Dagestan and Moscow have not linked these two killings and have opened two independent criminal investigations. However, police are assuming both killings relate to the victims’s professional activities.

Lives in journalism

Abashilov was appointed head of Dagestan's state TV and radio broadcasting company about a year ago.

Before that he was Dagestan's Deputy Minister of Information, National Policy and External Affairs. He was also Editor-in-Chief of a Dagestani youth newspaper.

His work was recognised by the republic's government, which awarded him the “Honoured Cultural Workers Decree”.

The 33-year-old Shurpayev reported from hot spots across the Russian Caucasus, as well as in Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia. Having worked at the local branch of the First Channel in Makhachkala, he moved to Moscow last month, where he rented a flat.