Journalist Abdifatah Moalim Nur was killed on the evening of October 16, 2023, in a suicide bomb attack at Blue Sky, a restaurant in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, according to multiple media reports and a statement by the Somali Police Force. Abdifatah, popularly known as Qeys, worked as a director and news anchor with the privately owned broadcaster Somali Cable TV.
Abdifatah was in his late 30s, anchored general news on Somali Cable TV, and occasionally conducted interviews about current affairs, according to CPJ’s review of Somali Cable TV’s content on YouTube and a journalist who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns.
In their statement, police said four other people were injured during the attack. The militant group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, according to separate reports by U.S. Congress-funded Voice of America (VOA) and the BBC. CPJ was unable to review the Al-Shabaab statement, which VOA reported was posted on Telegram.
Blue Sky restaurant is near the Somali Cable TV offices, the Somali presidential palace Villa Somalia, and the headquarters of the National Intelligence and Security Agency, and was frequented by journalists and government officials, according to reports, a statement by the local press freedom group the Somali Journalists Syndicate, and two journalists familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns.
Those journalists, both of whom spoke to Abdifatah in the hours before he was killed and interviewed witnesses in the aftermath, said that the journalist regularly visited Blue Sky restaurant in the evening after work and would often hold meetings there with friends, colleagues, sources, and government officials. One of these journalists told CPJ that Abdifatah had a favorite seat on the patio and was sitting there the evening he was killed.
Another of the journalists said that after a security officer became suspicious of a person and ordered them out of the restaurant, they detonated an explosive while walking towards the exit of the restaurant, near Abdifatah.
Abdifatah, who was reportedly standing up to pay his bill, was thrown by the explosion several meters across the street from the restaurant, where police responding to the scene found him alive, one of the journalists told CPJ. By the time police arrived at the hospital, Abdifatah had died.
Abdifatah suffered extensive injuries on the left side of his body, “from his head to his toes,” one of the journalists, who viewed the journalist’s body at the mortuary, told CPJ, adding the nature of the injuries indicated that the bomber stood close to one side of the journalist.
The two journalists said they did not know if Abdifatah was targeted specifically, adding that Al Shabaab likely targeted the restaurant because it would host high-profile people and government officials. A report by the privately owned news website Hiiraan quoted an Al Shabaab statement as saying that the targets were government intelligence officers who were at the restaurant. CPJ was unable to independently review this Al Shabaab statement.
Blue Sky restaurant has been the target of past attacks. In October 2016, two people were killed after a car bomb was detonated outside the restaurant, and in September 2020, three people were killed in a suicide bombing.
About two weeks before Abdifatah was killed, on October 5, Somali Cable TV aired an interview with a Somali National Army soldier who was deeply critical of the Al Shabaab, claiming that the Islamist militant group’s members included “drug dealers” and “prostitutes” and said the group misrepresents Islam “to suit their own agenda.”
Even though he did not conduct the interview, Abdifatah told a news conference of his colleagues that he had received several threatening text messages about the segment and warned his colleagues to be more cautious about similar stories in the future, one of the journalists told CPJ. CPJ was unable to confirm further details about the threatening messages.
In 2020, the Somali government appointed a special prosecutor to investigate crimes against members of the press. CPJ’s emails to presidential spokesperson Abdikarim Ali Kaar and the office of the attorney general asking for updates into the investigation into Abdifatah’s killing and whether the special prosecutor would be taking on this case went unanswered in early January 2024.
An email to the Somali Police Force returned an error message, and queries sent to the police spokesperson Sadik Aden Ali, also known as Duudishe, via messaging app and his account on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, were unanswered.
In a December 2023 statement, the Somali Journalists Syndicate said that no investigations had been carried out into Abdifatah’s killing.
Somalia ranks second in CPJ’s 2023 global impunity index, which lists countries where killers of journalists are most likely to go unpunished.