In Somalia, two journalists killed in ambush of official’s motorcade

New York, May 17, 2007—Two radio reporters covering a provincial governor in south-central Somalia were gunned down on Wednesday after the official’s motorcade was ambushed by clan militia.

News editor Abshir Ali Gabre and reporter Ahmed Hassan Mahad of Radio Jowhar were killed when the motorcade of Mohammed Omar Deele, governor of the Middle Shabelle province, came under attack from gunmen of a rival sub-clan, according to local journalists. Deele was unharmed, but at least six people were killed and several injured in the ensuing gun battle, the independent station Radio Shabelle reported.

The journalists had been called by Deele to cover a scheduled mediation between rival sub-clans in the area, said Saeed Ali Afrah, director of Radio Jowhar, a private station in Jowhar, 56 miles (90 kilometers) north of the capital Mogadishu.

Recent clashes between the groups have left at least 16 people dead, according to Radio Shabelle. Over the last 10 years, Middle Shabelle has seen repeated flare-ups of deadly unrest linked to clan infighting, according to international news reports.

“Journalists are paying a heavy price to bring the world news of the unrest in Somalia,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We mourn the deaths of Abshir Ali Gabre and Ahmed Hassan Mahad and extend our condolences to their families and colleagues.”

Gabre and Mahad were riding in the first vehicle of the official convoy, a white pickup truck carrying officials and armed security guards, according to Afrah. Gabre sustained gunshot wounds to his neck and left hand, while Mahad was shot in the head and chest, he said.

Gabre, 35 and the father of one, was also the head of the Middle Shabelle branch of the National Union of Somali Journalists and a stringer for the private Somali Broadcasting Corporation, according to Afrah. Mahad, 24, had been reporting for Radio Jowhar since its inception in October 2002. He was survived by a wife and three children.

Gabre and Mahad are the 16th and 17th journalists killed on duty in Somalia since 1992. Their deaths follow that of Mohammed Abdullahi Khalif, a radio contributor killed this month in a similar shootout. Somalia, the world’s 12th most dangerous for the press, has had no effective central government since the fall of dictator Siad Barre in 1991.