A police officer shot and killed Abdirizak Kasim Iman, a camera operator with the privately owned, since defunct broadcaster SBS TV, in Mogadishu on July 26, 2018, according to the journalist’s brother, Hassan Omar Mohammed, and Mohammed Shiil, former coordinator of the Somalia Mechanism for the Safety of Journalists, a group that monitors attacks on the press.
At the time of the attack, Abdirizak was riding a taxi, according to Hassan, who visited the scene; Mohammed Shiil; and Mohammed Ibrahim Moalimuu, then the secretary general of the government-recognized National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). Mohammed Shiil and Moalimuu, both of whom told CPJ they had spoken to colleagues and relatives of the journalist, said that a police officer tried to stop the taxi from going through a checkpoint; an argument ensued, during which the officer shot Abdirizak twice in the head.
At the time, Hassan, Mohammed Shiil, and a statement by NUSOJ, which CPJ reviewed, identified the checkpoint as being near Mogadishu’s Peace Garden. However, the journalist’s father, Qasim Iman, told CPJ in an August 2021 interview that the journalist was killed while riding in a taxi near a security checkpoint in Mogadishu’s Aviazione area. Sahra Ismail Ali, the journalist’s mother who was interviewed by the press rights group Somali Journalists Syndicate in May 2021, and an October 2018 summary of the incident that Mohammed Shiil shared with CPJ in August 2021 both said the journalist was killed near Suuqa Beerta (Garden Market), which is also in the Aviazione area.
In the August 2021 interview with CPJ, Qasim–citing a conversation he had with the taxi driver–said the police officer first hit Abdirizak’s camera with the butt of his gun; when Abdirizak objected, the officer shot him.
The summary shared by Mohammed Shiil, who has since left his position as the coordinator of the safety mechanism, cited the driver of the taxi and said Abdirizak had identified himself as a journalist before the police officer shot him.
CPJ was unable to independently confirm the taxi driver’s name or to find his contact information.
In August 2021, CPJ also reviewed a July 2018 report from the local Madina Hospital, where Abdullahi’s body was taken shortly after the attack, which said that the journalist had died of bleeding from bullet wounds to the head.
Qasim and Abduwahab Adan Abdirahman, who worked at SBS at the time, both told CPJ that Abdirizak was killed while on his way home from covering an event at the Somali Institute of Management and Administration Development, a local university. In her interview with the journalists’ syndicate, Sahra said her son told her he planned to cover a graduation event at the university.
However, in 2018, Suleiman Yusuf, chief of programming at SBS TV, had told CPJ Abdirizak was on his way to film a shop in Mogadishu’s Waberi district for a story. CPJ was unable to verify the assignment Abdirizak was working on when he was killed.
Somalia’s then police commissioner, Bashir Abdi Mohamed, told CPJ in July 2018 that the Criminal Investigations Department was investigating the killing.
A police document dated July 27, 2018, and reviewed by CPJ in September 2021, said an officer, Police Sergeant Abdullahi Ahmed Nur, was suspected of carrying out a murder at the Aviazione area on July 26, 2018, and had since gone missing.
In November 2018, a military court tried Abdullahi in absentia and found him guilty of murdering Abdirizak, sentencing him to five years in prison and a fine of 100 camels, according to a sentencing document from the court seen by CPJ and a July 2019 statement, reviewed by CPJ, from NUSOJ, which had since been renamed the Federation of Somali Journalists.
Abdullahi’s trial and conviction were not made public until July 2019, which authorities claimed was part of a plan to ensure he did not evade capture, Moalimuu told CPJ.
Qasim told CPJ that as of September 2021, Abdullahi remained at large, and that justice had not been delivered for Abdirizak. Citing unnamed sources in a July 2021 statement, the Somali Journalists Syndicate said Abduallhi was living in the central Galmudug State and was still on the government’s payroll. A January 2021 letter from the military court in Mogadishu, which CPJ reviewed, said that Abdullahi was believed to be in Galmudug and directed the region’s police commander to apprehend the police officer. CPJ could not independently verify the reports that Abdullahi was in Galmudug state or find his contacts.
An email sent to the Galmudug state house bounced back and a message sent to the regional government via its Facebook page was unanswered. A phone number listed on this Facebook page did not connect in early September 2021.
CPJ also sent email queries to two addresses associated with the military court in Mogadishu, as indicated in court documents. One email was undelivered while the other remained unanswered as of September 2021.
Somali’s deputy information minister, Abdirahman Yusuf Omar, did not respond to CPJ’s requests for comment sent via messaging app in August 2021. Twitter direct messages requesting comment from Somalia’s current police commissioner, Abdi Hassan Mohamed Hijar, and deputy police commissioner, Zakiya Hussein, were also unanswered. Moalimuu, who became a government spokesperson in December 2020, did not answer multiple phone calls from CPJ or respond to a request for comment sent via messaging app.