New York, April 1, 2011—Journalists in Somalia are getting caught in the crossfire of increased fighting between joint government and African Union forces against Al-Shabaab insurgents, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Radio Simba sports reporter Ahmed Hassan was hit in crossfire while covering a soccer game in Mogadishu on Wednesday, according to local journalists. Hassan was rushed to Medina Hospital, where doctors performed surgery on his stomach. He was also hit in the shoulder. Although recovering from the wounds, Hassan is currently slipping in and out of consciousness, his mother, Fadumo Jaamac, said. The soccer field, located at a university in Hodan district, was situated roughly a third of a mile (half a kilometer) from intense gun battle between the warring parties, the press officer for the Somali Football Federation, Shafi’i Mohyaddin, told CPJ.
A stray bullet also hit Radio Voice of Peace journalist Samira Mohamed on March 13 in the same district on her return home, local journalist Mohamed Ibrahim told CPJ. Admitted to Medina Hospital, Mohamed recovered from a chest and right shoulder wound.
In a separate incident, stray artillery shells struck the office of the independent daily newspaper Xog-ogaal on Wednesday morning in the volatile Bakara Market area of Mogadishu, the union reported. The shells destroyed the roof and two computers in the daily newspaper’s office. No casualties were reported, Ibrahim told CPJ. Xog-ogaal is one of only a handful of newspapers still in existence in Somalia.
“These shootings underscore the extreme danger faced by journalists in Somalia, even when they are not reporting on frontline fighting,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “CPJ calls on all sides to ensure that civilians are not targets.”
Controlled by Al-Shabaab, Bakara Market has come under heavy fire between the warring parties for the past two months, according to local journalists. A stray bullet killed the director of Hurma Radio, Barkhat Awale, last year while he was helping a technician fix a transmitter on the roof of the station, local journalists told CPJ.
Al-Shabaab controls roughly two-thirds of the country and sections of the capital, Mogadishu. The Interim Transitional Government of Somalia has fought a protracted war with the insurgents since late 2006.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mohamed Ibrahim’s title has been corrected in the third paragraph.