Killer of Human Rights Activist Identified

It's a glimmer of good news in an region so often filled with bad.

Russian officials say they have identified the killer of well-known human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, abducted last summer outside her home in Chechnya's capital Grozny.

"Estemirova's murder has been cleared up and investigators have established the killer," a law enforcement official told Russian news agency Interfax Thursday.

Details are scant and the name of the suspect has not been revealed. Officials told Russian news agencies that they were working to track down the shooter and who ordered the killing.

Colleagues at Estemirova's former human rights group, Memorial, are skeptical about there being a breakthrough.

"I asked my colleagues to contact the investigators and they denied it," Oleg Orlov, the group's head, told ABC News.

"I think that the investigating committee know the group of people who is responsible for this," he added. "People who have worked [in the region] for so many years could not possibly not know who was involved in this."

After her kidnapping, Estemirova was driven to the neighboring republic of Ingushetia where she was found shot in the head and chest. Orlov and others in the human rights community immediately pointed to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, whom Estemirova had repeatedly accused of ordering kidnappings, torture and murders.

Kadyrov denied any involvement and sued Orlov for libel. He recently dropped the suit in part at the urging of his mother. "Why should Kadyrov kill a woman whom nobody needs?" Kadyrov said a few weeks after the murder.

Memorial's offices in Grozny shut down as fierce condemnation poured in from around the world. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev responded forcefully after reportedly being "indignant" at the news.

Despite months of no apparent progress, calls for independent investigations and increased efforts were ignored.

Activists: No Justice Unless People Ordering the Murders Are Found

Estemirova's death is the highest-profile murder since journalist and fellow Kadyrov critic Anna Politkovskaya was killed in 2006 and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov was gunned down January 2009.

Arrests were made and charges brought in both the Politkovskaya and Markelov cases, which, rights activists say, is of little consequence if the people ordering the murders aren't found.

"Naturally, it's very important to get the actual killer, whoever pulled the trigger, but it's so essential in this particular case and in any other case of a political killing to be precise who gave the order," Human Rights Watch's Tanya Lokshina said. "That's what is of paramount importance here. There will be no justice without it."