Radio Simba staffer shot outside his studio in Somalia

New York, August 5, 2011–The logistics manager and driver for Radio Simba, Farah Hassan Sahal, died from bullet wounds early Thursday evening just outside the station’s compound in the restive Bakara Market in the capital, Mogadishu, Radio Simba Director Abdullahi Ali Farah told CPJ. Hassan was helping the station move damaged radio equipment when a sniper shot him three times, Farah said. Hassan, 45, is survived by his wife and eight children, he said.

The shots came from an area of the market controlled by African Union (AU) forces, Farah said. Local journalists suspect that the forces may have mistaken Hassan for one of the insurgent gunmen in Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab, government, and AU forces have been using buildings near the market to attack each other in a week-long offensive aiming to take control of the area, Somali journalists and wire reports said.

“CPJ calls on both sides of the conflict to use all means possible to avoid civilian casualties, including media staff,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “African Union forces must make an immediate inquiry into this tragic incident.”

The Interim Transitional Government of Somalia, combined with AU forces, has fought a protracted war with Al-Shabaab insurgents since late 2006. Although Al-Shabaab controls large swaths of the country, the government gained new territory in Mogadishu this year, including most of the militant group’s former stronghold in Bakara Market, local journalists said. The ongoing fighting has recently led to tens of thousands of famine refugees moving into relief camps in the capital, according to wire reports.

Radio Simba has been off the air for three days, Farah said, after shells hit the transmitter antenna of the station. They hope to start rebroadcasting from Bakara Market once the heavy shelling stops since they lack the funds to move to a safer location, he said. Radio Simba is one of the few media groups still operating in the volatile area, local journalists said. Radio Shabelle, for instance, moved out of the area last year in an attempt to save the station from Al-Shabaab control, Abdimaalik Yusuf, chairman of Radio Shabelle, told CPJ.

In April, Radio Simba sports reporter, Ahmed Hassan, sustained bullet injuries from crossfire while covering a soccer game in Mogadishu. Hassan managed to survive a stomach and shoulder injury after colleagues rushed him to Medina Hospital, local journalists told CPJ. Last year, a stray bullet killed Barkhat Awale, director of Hurma Radio, while he was helping a technician fix a transmitter on the roof of the station, local journalists told CPJ.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The number of Farah Hassan’s children has been corrected to eight in the first paragraph.