Friday, March 02, 2012

Somalia: Mogadishu terror continues, despite Al-Shabab "withdrawal"

Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN. Mogadishu remains insecure months after the withdrawal of Al-Shabab insurgents

Source: IRIN

NAIROBI, 1 March 2012 (IRIN) - Although Al-Shabab insurgents announced their withdrawal from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in August 2011, insecurity in the city has continued, as evidenced by the targeted killing of a journalist and a bomb blast in the past week.

Abukar Hassan Kadaf, the director of the private Somaliweyn Radio station, was "killed in front of his home at around Magrib time [sunset prayer, 3pm GMT] on 28 February", according to Ahmed Mahamud, a journalist in Mogadishu.

"Security will not be achieved in government-controlled areas until those who are responsible for attacks on media workers and activists are held to account," said Michelle Kagari, deputy director for Amnesty International's Africa programme.

"Every effort must be made to stop a re-emerging pattern of targeted killings against civil society actors. This includes conducting thorough investigations into the murders, ensuring that perpetrators are brought to justice in fair trials, and re-establishing the rule of law."

Mahamud said the current wave of insecurity in Mogadishu was affecting all residents.

"On Monday [27 February], five children were killed and 22 injured when a bomb exploded in the field where they were playing [football] in Wardhigley district of the capital," Mahamud said.

He said a security official in the area where the children died had been arrested in connection with the explosion.

Another journalist, who requested anonymity, told IRIN the government had begun recruiting youths who have reportedly defected from Al-Shabab. "The idea is they know Al-Shabab so they can be used to defeat them."

However, many of the recent killings, including the bomb blast, have been blamed on them, he said. "The so-called defectors are the biggest contributors to the current wave of insecurity."

The journalist said the government had reportedly recruited close to 1,000 such individuals into the National Security Agency (NSA) "and the only requirement for them to get a job with the NSA is to be former Al-Shabab".

Journalists have become the easiest target, he said. "Senior government officials are tightly guarded, so the perpetrators are looking for easy targets. Unfortunately, journalists are easy to get to and they are high profile. So we fit the bill."

Living in fear

However, government security forces dismissed the claim that defectors were involved in the insecurity.

Khalif Ahmed Ereg, head of the NSA in Benadir region (Mogadishu and environs), said defectors could not carry out the attacks. "These are people who are in our hands. We know where they are and what they are doing at all times."

Ereg blamed Al-Shabab members "who are still hiding among the public; we know it is them and we will catch them".

Kadaf is the third journalist killed in the past two months, said Mohamed Ibrahim, the Secretary-General of National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSJOs).

In the past, the city was divided between the government and Al-Shabab, "so you knew where the danger was coming from". Now the whole city is under government control, yet "we don't know where the danger is coming from”.

"The fact that no-one has ever been booked or brought to court for the death of a journalist sends a message that it is okay to kill one."

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Somalia is the most dangerous place in Africa for journalists.

Pressure to flee

Ibrahim said Kadaf's killing had added pressure on journalists in the capital and many might flee, "leaving even fewer journalists to cover the story of Mogadishu and Somalia".

Even the displaced in the city had not been spared, said a civil society source. "They get robbed, raped and even killed sometimes. It is really tragic that seven months after Al-Shabab has been driven from the city we are still living in fear."

There are an estimated 400,000 internally displaced people in and around Mogadishu, with more coming into the city fleeing fighting between government forces supported by the African Union, Ethiopian and Kenyan troops and Al-Shabab in southern Somalia.