Until recently, after a day’s work in one of the world’s most volatile cities, Mogadishu journalists and civil servants alike would unwind in The Village, a restaurant in the heart of the Somalian capital. On 20 September, however, two suicide bombers violently put an end to that daily routine.
By Abdulaziz Billow Ali, Mogadishu
Shortly after the Maghrib prayer, just after sunset, two men walked into the popular restaurant opposite the National Theatre and blew themselves up. They killed 15 people, including journalists Liban Ali Nur, head of news of Somali National TV, Abdisatar Daher Sabriye, head of news of Radio Mogadishu, and Abdirahman Yasin Ali, director of Radio Hamar.
Four other journalists were wounded in the attack. Their colleagues, who used to frequent The Village, are still trying to get to grips with what happened. “Today we mourn our colleagues,” says an emotional Liban Abdi Ali, a TV reporter with US-based Al Hurra TV, at the burial site near Mogadishu.
“Both Liban [Ali Nur] and Abdisatar were senior officials at the Somali Ministry of Information. Their death is a big blow to us all, but we hope that the killing will not kill journalism,” he says, adding that, “Somali journalists are consistently under threat from the armed groups.”
Keep the morale up
Mohamed Abdullahi Haji is a senior staff member at the Somalian Ministry of Information and was a close colleague of Liban and Abdisatar. Haji holds militant Islamist group al-Shabaab responsible for the attack, branding them as terrorists who kill innocent people. “We are in grief following the death of our colleagues,” Haji says.
“Let me be clear: the killing is meant to silence the media, but as Somali journalists we will put up a struggle and fight the militant groups and their ideologies. We will continue to inform the public of the massacre al-Shabaab is inflicting on the people of Somalia. Liban and Abdisatar may have died, but […] I call on all journalists to double their efforts and not to lose their morale up,” he says.
Always on the lookout
Journalists in Mogadishu claim al-Shabaab are targeting public places where journalists and politicians converge now that they have lost grounds in south and central Somalia to allied forces. Abdinassir Noor Gedi, a camera man for Hornconnecting Broadcast Services in Mogadishu, feels that the attack was meant to create panic among the journalists.
“Somalian journalists have faced all types of threats, but have proved be tough. Therefore we don’t think that an attack on a single restaurant can force people to stop meeting. That said, journalists need to be on the lookout at all times,” says Abdinassir, who would have also been at The Village at the time of the attack if not for the fact that he had work to finish at the office.
Thirteen journalists killed in 2012
Somalian journalists feel that they hold the number one spot on the militant group's hit lists, since they keep reporting on all the events of terrorism in the country. The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) said in a press statement that it is outraged at the number of journalists and other media workers killed since January this year. “2012 has sadly turned today the single deadliest year for journalists in the history of our country,” the statement read.
As journalists were attending the burial of their colleagues in Jazeera, north of Mogadishu, unknown gunmen executed Hassan Yusuf Absuge in broad daylight. The brutal killing of the head of programmes of Radio Manta brings the death toll of Somalian journalists to 13 this year.