MOSCOW Dec 6 A state television presenter in
Russia's volatile North Caucasus was shot dead late on Wednesday
in what federal investigators said may have been meant as a
warning to journalists reporting on an Islamist insurgency.
Kazbek Gekkiyev, 28, who worked for a local channel of
Russian state broadcaster VGTRK, was killed in Nalchik, capital
of Kabardino-Balkaria province, the federal Investigative
He was not known for reporting on crime or the insurgency,
which is less prevalent in Kabardino-Balkaria than in other
provinces such as Dagestan.
A woman identified as a witness by another VGTRK channel
said two people had got out of a car and asked Gekkiyev, 'Are
you TV presenter Kazbek Gekkiyev?' before the shots were fired.
Colleagues were reported as saying they did not understand
the motive for the killing, and the investigators said they were
not ruling out any possible cause.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said
last year that the North Caucasus, a mostly Muslim string of
provinces in southern Russia, was one of the most dangerous
places in the world for journalists.
Local representatives of federal bodies, especially the
Interior Ministry, are often targets of violence there.
Media cited Gekkiyev's coworkers as saying other presenters
at the station, which usually follows the official line in its
reporting, were taken off the air after receiving threats from
local insurgent leaders.
The reports said those journalists had reported on
operations by security forces against the Islamist radicals.
Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said the
security services were still trying to identify suspects.
But he said investigators suspected Gekkiyev was killed as
"a threat to other journalists speaking about results of the
fight against the bandit underground in the republic".
Authorities often refer to insurgents as members of the
The insurgents, who wage nearly daily violence across the
North Caucasus, say they want to create an Islamic state in the
area wedged between the Black and Caspian Seas.
Ethnic tension, including those between Balkars and
Kabardins in Kabardino-Balkaria, helps drive the insurgency,
along with grievances stemming from corruption and strong-arm
police tactics used by local leaders to staunch the violence.
(Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)