Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Somali journalist murdered in Mogadishu

HornAfrik director Said Tahlil Ahmed
(photo: NUSJ)

The BBC has just reported that the head of HornAfrik, an independent media outlet based in Somalia, was shot dead earlier today while heading to a press conference called by the al-Shabab Islamist militia. Said Tahlil Ahmed was killed near the central Bakara Market by masked gunmen, though no one has yet claimed responsibility for the incident.

Al-Shabab had invited local journalists to a briefing at a militia facility near the market, in order to discuss "the situation in the country". A spokesperson for al-Shabab, Sheikh Ali Mohamad Hussein, told the BBC's Somali Service that the group denies any involvement in Tahlil's killing, instead placing the blame for the murder on unnamed enemies seeking to "defame" the Islamist militia that now controls much of the southern part of the country, including the site of the interim parliament, the town of Baidoa.

Somalis carry Tahlil's body after his assassination earlier today
(photo: Ismail Kofi)

Said Tahlil Ahmed is the third senior journalist from HornAfrik to be killed in the last two years. He assumed the position of director of the radio station in 2007, following the death of Ali Iman Sharmake, who was killed by an IED was traveling with his colleague, Sahal Abdulle (who was seriously injured). At least a dozen journalists have been killed in Somalia in the last two years.

I have just received word from my colleague Sahal Abdulle about his friend Tahlil's death. (Abdulle is the former Reuters bureau chief in Mogadishu and recipient of PEN USA's 2007 Freedom to Write Award.) From East Africa, Abdulle tells me that people are in a state of shock about the incident, and that he is particularly concerned about what will become of Tahlil's six children, the youngest of whom is three months old.

He also pointed me to a Washington Post article from November 12, 2007, in which journalist Stephanie McCrummen spoke to both Abdulle and Said Tahlil Ahmed. McCrummen began her piece by saying that, "Since two of his colleagues were assasintated in September, Said Tahlil has come to speak of his own violent death as a near certainty. Being a journalist in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, he has made his peace with God."

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