New York, May 5, 2010—Three gunmen shot dead veteran broadcast journalist Sheik Nur Mohamed Abkey on Tuesday evening as he was returning home from work at the state-run Radio Mogadishu, local journalists told CPJ. Gunmen abducted Abkey, left, near his residence in Wardhigley, southern Mogadishu, and shot him repeatedly in the head. Local journalists said they suspect Abkey was tortured after finding his body dumped in an alleyway in Wardhigley.
Al-Shabaab insurgents phoned journalists at Radio Mogadishu on Tuesday evening to tell them they had killed Abkey, local journalists told CPJ. Journalists at Radio Mogadishu said they suspect he was killed for his affiliation with the government-run station. Most local radio stations in the capital, Mogadishu, did not report the incident, fearing retribution by the insurgents, local journalists told CPJ.
“The brutality of this murder is shocking even by the standards of Somalia, which is the most dangerous country in Africa to be a journalist,” said CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator
Abkey, said by the station to be in his early 60s, was a news monitor and researcher for Radio Mogadishu and helped coach the younger staff. “He was my mentor, he taught all of us, but at the same time he was so humble and friendly,” one local journalist who asked to remain anonymous out of fear for his safety told CPJ.
Abkey joined the profession in 1988 as a reporter with the former Somali National News Agency and had worked for several media houses in Mogadishu including HornAfrik Radio, the Somali Television Network, East Africa Radio, the National Union of Somali Journalists reported. He refused to be intimidated by the warring factions in Mogadishu and moved easily throughout the city, local journalists told CPJ. Colleagues at Radio Mogadishu had encouraged Abkey to live at the station for security but the veteran journalist insisted on living in an area controlled by insurgents, Somalieweyn online reported.
Somalia has been embroiled in a conflict mainly between the government and the Al-Shabaab insurgency since December 2006. In April, insurgents ordered a ban on the BBC and music in all areas under their control, according to local reports. The self-described Islamic insurgency, Al-Shabaab, control most of central and southern Somalia and parts of Mogadishu.
Somalia is the most dangerous country in Africa to be a journalist, with Abkey the 33rd journalist killed since 1993. He is survived by his wife and four children.