Four Somali journalists die in two days of attacks in Mogadishu

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 21, 2012 

— Four Somali journalists have been killed in the last two days in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, in what appears to be a campaign of assassination by unknown assailants.

Three were killed Thursday evening when two men blew themselves up at a popular hangout for journalists and political activists known as The Village. Six other journalists were wounded in the attack. Fourteen people in all died in the blast.

On Friday, a radio journalist was gunned down at a Mogadishu intersection.

The killings bring to 10 the number of local journalists who’ve died this year in what Tom Rhodes of the Committee to Protect Journalists called "the deadliest year for Somali journalists since this conflict began" more than 20 years ago.

Rhodes singled out militia groups and members of the previous Somali government as possible suspects in the attacks.

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, where U.S. diplomatic efforts toward Somalia are based, said in statement that the attack "on a cafe known to be frequented by students, scholars, journalists and politicians underscores the attackers’ contempt for Somali lives and culture."

The location was known as a popular journalist hangout. A McClatchy correspondent was among about 10 journalists who’d gathered there Thursday afternoon but had left the restaurant about 20 minutes before the attack. He returned to find friends dead and others wounded at the bloody scene.

Somali journalists and Rhodes said they believe journalists were the primary targets of the Thursday bombing.

On Friday, Hassan Yusuf Absuge, a director at the privately owned Radio Maanta, was assaulted by men carrying pistols at a busy Mogadishu intersection. The men shot him in the head and he died immediately, according to news reports.

While most violence in Somalia has been blamed for years on al Shabab, the Somali affiliate of al Qaida, few here see them as likely suspects, given that Shabab’s forces were pushed out of Mogadishu last year. More likely suspects, many say, are to be found among Somali politicians who know such acts routinely will be blamed on Shabab.

The uptick in violence against journalists comes even as the Somali capital has grown more stable. The Village, where the Thursday attack occurred, was recently opened by one of many Somali businessman from the diaspora who are returning to invest in the city’s reconstruction.

Pictures of the three journalists killed Thursday, posted online, highlight another sad reality: They were all young men. Rhodes said that’s because older journalists have been killed, fled or decided journalism was not worth the risk.

The National Union of Somali Journalists has said that the lack of any arrests or reprisals for the attacks is only emboldening whoever is behind them.

“The culture of impunity has become ever more strongly entrenched because of the failure to bring those responsible for the murder and harassment of journalists to book," the group’s secretary general, Omar Faruk Osman, said in a statement posted to the group’s website on Friday.

Boswell is a McClatchy special correspondent. His reporting is underwritten in part by a grant from Humanity United, a California-based foundation that focuses on human rights. Email: aboswell@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @alanboswell

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