Journalists’ driver killed in ambush

New York, August 4, 2006—Unidentified gunmen today ambushed leaders of the National Union of Somali Journalists on the road from Baidoa to Mogadishu, fatally shooting their driver, Madey Garas, according to NUSOJ Secretary-General Omar Faruk Osman. Another NUSOJ official who was in the car, Fahad Mohammed Abukar, was injured in the attack.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Madey Garas, and we call for his killers to be brought to justice,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.

Osman told CPJ that he, Abukar, and Garas were traveling with two bodyguards from Baidoa, seat of the weak transitional government, to the capital Mogadishu, where they hoped to hold talks with Islamist officials on press freedom issues. The Union of Islamic Courts controls Mogadishu and large swaths of southern Somalia.

Osman said they were in a “no man’s land” about 28 miles (45 kilometers) outside Baidoa when they saw three gunmen at a roadblock ordering them to stop. Osman said that since there was no recognized authority in that area, NUSOJ officials told their driver not to stop but to accelerate around the roadblock. As they passed, and the NUSOJ bodyguards drew guns, the attackers opened fire on the driver, shooting him through the head and killing him immediately. The car began to veer out of control, but Osman, who was in the passenger seat, said he managed to regain control and bring the car to a halt. The NUSOJ bodyguards then fought with the attackers, who fled, Osman told CPJ.

Osman said it was not clear what had motivated the attack. He said it had been well known that the NUSOJ officials were traveling to Mogadishu.

On June 23, unidentified gunmen killed Swedish freelance journalist and photographer Martin Adler as he was filming a demonstration in Mogadishu.