Khatloni, a reporter for the Tajik-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was attacked late at night in his Moscow apartment by an unknown, axe-wielding assailant. The door of his apartment was not damaged, indicating there was no forced entry and that the journalist might have known his attacker.
Khatloni, 46, was struck twice in the head, according to RFE/RL’s Moscow bureau. He then stumbled onto the street and collapsed and was later found by a passerby. The journalist died later that night in Moscow’s Botkin Hospital. Local police opened a murder investigation but had made little progress at year’s end.
Khatloni had worked since 1996 as a Moscow-based journalist for the Tajik service of the U.S.-funded RFE/RL, which broadcasts daily news programming to Tajikistan.
A RFE/RL spokeswoman said that at the time of his death, Khatloni had been working on stories about the Russian military’s human-rights abuses in Chechnya. Earlier in the year, a senior official in Russia’s Media Ministry charged that RFE/RL was “hostile to our state.”
However, Khatloni’s colleagues also speculated that the journalist might have been killed because of unpaid debts, or in a random hate crime.