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Two Journalists Shot in Russia's Caucasus Region

A second journalist is dead of gunshot wounds fired under suspicious circumstances in Russia's volatile Caucasus region this week. VOA Moscow correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports the death of the first journalist sparked an anti-government demonstration in one of the republics of southern Russia.

Police in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan in the northern Caucasus region of Russia, say Islamic TV journalist Abdulla Alishayev died early Wednesday following an attack by two unknown assailants the previous evening. A police spokesman says he was shot in the shoulder and head as he sat in his car, and died in a local hospital, where surgeons were unable to save his life. Officials say Alishayev was a proponent of radical Wahhabi Islam. Human rights activists say authorities falsely accuse devout and independent Muslims of being Wahhabi extremists.

The Associated Press reports another journalist was left with a fractured skull after a beating in Nalchik, the capital of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, also in the Caucasus.

On Sunday in Nazran, the main city of Ingushetiya, yet another journalist was shot and killed in police custody. Mahomet Yevloyev, owner of the independent Web site was detained by police at the city's Magas Airport. He had been critical of Ingush authorities, including President Murat Zyazikov who is reported to have been on a flight from Moscow with Yevloyev.

Both men reportedly got into in a heated argument on board and police were waiting for the journalist as he deplaned. Officials say the victim was accidentally shot after he tried to grab a gun from an officer. Opposition activists say a number of armed men, including the Interior Minister, met Yevloyev, who was allegedly shot in a police car and his body was simply thrown onto a street near a hospital.

Ingush opposition activist Mahomet Khazbiyev told VOA Yevloyev made very critical allegations about President Zyazikov.

Khazbiyev says the journalist published accounts of everything in Ingushetiya; that Zyazikov lies, that no factories or homes are being built, that authorities kill five or six people every day.

Islambek Apayev, a north Caucasus expert with the Moscow Helsinki Group says many people have turned to the human rights organization for help dealing with repression in Ingushetiya. He says there has been increased talk in the North Caucasus of seceding from Russia after Moscow's recent recognition of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, Apayev notes that economic hardships force many people in Ingushetiya to find jobs elsewhere in Russia to feed their families.

The human rights activist says some people do not understand the arrangement with Russia, and want to secede, all the more so after Moscow recognized Abkhaz and South Ossetian independence. Apayev quotes such people as saying, "we don't want to live in this kind of Russia."

U.S. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormick said Tuesday that Russian officials need to investigate the circumstances of Yevloyev's death and people need to be held to account for what happened. An Ingush Interior Ministry spokesman told VOA the case is being investigated.