Two unidentified hooded gunmen shot Abdirisak Ali Abdi in the head and chest while he was sitting in a restaurant in Galkayo, a town in the semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland, on November 16, 2014, according to news reports and Mohamed Abdulahi, director of Dadio Dajir, where Abdirisak worked, who spoke to CPJ.
The two gunmen fled the scene before police arrived, and Abdirisak died while receiving treatment for his injuries at Mudug General Hospital, according to those sources.
Abdirisak, nicknamed Silver, was a reporter and newscaster for the privately owned broadcaster Radio Daljir and a reporter for the Hargeisa-based HornCable TV. Radio Daljir Editor Abdifatah Omar said Abdirisak had routinely covered local politics in Puntland.
Local journalists told CPJ they could not specify a story that could have led to Abdirasak’s killing, but said that he covered local politics, including the 2013 Puntland elections. According to a report by the independent Dalsan Radio, just days before his death, Abdirisak had told a friend on Facebook that he feared for his life. The report did not state the reason for that fear.
Previously, unidentified assailants threw grenades at Radio Daljir’s Galkayo station in 2011 and 2013. The station’s premises were damaged both times, and one security guard was injured, the journalists said.
In May 2012, unidentified gunmen killed Farhan Jeemis Abdulle, a producer, editor, and host for the broadcaster, as he walked home from work.
On April 21, 2021, a military court in Galkayo handed death sentences to eight men convicted of being members of the militant group Al-Shabaab and carrying out attacks in Puntland, according to Radio Daljir and other media reports.
Radio Daljir reported that one of the men, Sahal Mohamed Jama, confessed to killing Abdirizak while another, Jamaac Muriidi Huseein Mohamed, confessed to killing Farhan.
On May 22, 2021, the Puntland state-run YouTube channel Af Meer published a video in which a man identified as Sahal is seen confessing to killing five people, and shows the locations where he allegedly committed the killings, including a restaurant where he says he killed Abdirizak.
In the video, Sahal claims that he shot Abdirizak twice in the head and that an accomplice, an Al-Shabaab operative identified as “Buris” who was not among the co-accused, shot in the air as diversion.
The eight were executed by firing squad on June 27, 2021, according to Mumin Abdi Shire, the regional police commander, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. Mumin did not respond to CPJ’s follow-up messages asking if police were seeking additional suspects in connection to Abdirizak’s killing.
According to research by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, Somalia’s military courts, which try a broad range of cases including against civilians, fall short of fair trial standards, including by trying minors; failing to afford defendants adequate legal counsel; and relying on forced confessions. CPJ has also documented due process breaches in cases of journalists who have been tried by Somalia’s military courts, including in Puntland.
Radio Daljir’s management told CPJ, on condition of anonymity due to safety concerns, that it believes the court had convicted the men “directly” responsible for Farhan and Abdirizak’s killings. The management said it believes that justice had been served even though questions about additional accomplices are unanswered and that the possible masterminds and financiers of the attacks are likely to remain unknown.
CPJ did not receive a response to August 2021 emails sent to Puntland’s state house, and government spokesperson Jama Depereni did not respond to WhatsApp messages requesting comment, including on whether officials were seeking additional suspects in connection to the killings of Farhan and Abdirizak. A person who answered the phone when CPJ called the Puntland ministry of information requested that queries be sent via email. In response to that email, an official at the ministry referred CPJ to Puntland’s ministry of security.
In a September 4, 2021, email responding to CPJ’s queries about cases of journalists killed in Galkayo, Mohamed Iman, director general of Puntland’s ministry of security, declined to discuss specifics of investigations, saying that the government’s security measures did not allow this. He said that those convicted of killing journalists had been brought to justice, without specifying whether this included Abdirizak and Farhan’s case. Mohamed Iman said the government was committed to protecting its citizens, including journalists, and invited CPJ to visit Puntland for more details about ongoing investigations. He did not respond to a follow-up email from CPJ requesting more information.
At least four other journalists have been killed in Galkayo since early 2012: Ali Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdullahi Farah, Mahad Ali Mohamed, and Jamal Farah Adan.