A Russian journalist who reported on human rights violations in the Caucasus has been shot dead in the province of Dagestan, according to reports.

Akhmednabi Akhmednabiev, who had received death threats and survived an assassination attempt in January, was killed by several gun shots while he was driving just 50 metres from his house on the outskirts of provincial capital Makhachkala.

The attack took place on the same site as January's failed assassination.

The journalist, who was deputy editor of Novoe Delo (New business) and reporter for a website called Kavkazskiy Uzel (Caucasian Knot), was among the 16 people, including lawyers and human rights defenders, mentioned in a so-called "execution list" distributed on leaflets in Makhachkala.

Another journalist whose name appeared on the list, Gadjimurad Kamalov, was killed in December 2011, allegedly for his work as publisher of the independent newspaper Chernovik.

"This was clearly a targeted killing," said Grigory Shvedov, editor of the Caucasian Knot.

Criticism of security forces

Akhmednabiev had reported on the abductions and other abuses committed by security forces in the name of the fight against Islamist extremism.

After surviving the attempt on his life in January, he had also accused the authorities of hypocrisy, saying: "When militants break the law - in a way they play according to their own rules - they say 'we will not obey your law.' So it is naive to demand that they respect the rules.

"But it is a different situation when our law-enforcement personnel blatantly break the law. It is naive for them, who have the duty to defend the law as part of their job, to demand that other people respect the law."

Abdulla Duduev, the chief editor of DOSH magazine, told the Index on Censorship advocacy group that "there are serious suspicions about who was involved in Akhmednabiev's assassination, as he actively reported on human rights violations and repressions against Muslims by the police and Russian army.

"No one believes this is simply the act of criminal gunmen."

Spate of journalist killings

In a statement, the Memorial Human Rights Centre said: "Murdering a journalist is always cruel; it is even crueller as it happened on the first day of Ramadan, a sacred month for all Muslims.

"Akhmednabi Akhmednabiev was one of the few journalists in Dagestan who reported on 'anti-terror' measures and how 'fighting terrorism' was used as a pretext for persecution of religious communities and mass violations of human rights."

Akhmednabiev was the 17th journalist to be killed or die in suspicious circumstances in Dagestan since 1993.

"I am alarmed that yet another journalist has been killed in Russia," said Dunja Mijatović, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's representative on freedom of the media.

"This murder is a horrid reminder that much more needs to be done in Russia to ensure and guarantee the safety of journalists."

Russia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 54 reporters have been killed in Russia since 1992, with 16 cases still unsolved.