Somali broadcast journalist Abdiwali Ali Hassan was shot several times near his home in the town of Afgooye, about 19 miles outside Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on February 16, 2020, and died on his way to the hospital, according to statements by three local media organizations, his colleagues, and news reports.
Abdiwali, nicknamed “Online” because he was always “on the line” to radio stations to file stories, was a freelance correspondent for the London-based Universal TV and local Radio Kulmiye, in the conflict-ridden Lower Shabelle region, the site of attacks by the militant group Al-Shabaab.
The 25-year-old journalist was returning from work at about 6 p.m. when two gunmen shot him several times in the head and chest, according to a statement from the Federation of Somali Journalists, another from the Somali Journalists Syndicate, and a Facebook post by the Somali organization Human Rights Journalists.
All three organizations said that the journalist had been receiving anonymous threats.
Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, secretary general of the Somali Journalists Syndicate, said in the organization’s statement that the journalist’s last report for Radio Kulmiye focused on Somali National Army operations in several districts in Lower Shabelle that were targeting locations held by Al-Shabaab. In its February 16 statement, the Human Rights Journalists organization said no group had claimed responsibility for the killing.
Universal TV editor Abdullahi Ahmed Nur told CPJ via messaging app that Abdiwali had received threats over several months for his reporting. Two weeks before his death, unidentified people posted the journalist’s photo on a Facebook page saying that “Abdiwali was killed,” said Abdullahi, adding that the post was later deleted.
In January 2019, Al-Shabaab militants entered Abdiwali’s home when the group had captured villages in Afgooye district, Abdullahi said.
“He personally told me that armed men visited his home one night and that they could not get him because he was not there. He did not know who these people were, but his wife who was at the home confirmed that they were looking for Abdiwali,” Abdullahi told CPJ.
In July 2019, Abdiwali left his home town for Mogadishu fearing for his life, after receiving death threats from anonymous callers, Abdullahi said. He added that the journalist returned home two weeks later when he thought it was safe to do so.
“I am not sure if these [callers] were Al-Shabaab or others. Abdiwali always covered news about the conflict in the Lower Shabelle region and also did a lot of humanitarian news reporting including the displaced people in the region,” said Abdullahi.
On the day before he was killed, Abdiwali had covered the inaugural ceremony of a school in the Shalanbood district as well as the renovation of the district commissioner’s office, Abdullahi said.
He described Abdiwali as an ethical journalist. “He never exaggerated Al-Shabaab and could be one of the reasons he was not liked by the militants, but also he was not liked by the government itself.”
On the day he was killed, the journalist was on assignment in Afgooye, Abdullahi told CPJ. “He told me that he wanted to cover the impact of the recent floods in the region and how it affected the local people and he was looking for people to interview for his story.”
Information Minister Mohamed Hair Maareeye said that the government would investigate the case, according to a February 17, 2020, news report. On February 18, CPJ called the governor of Lower Shabelle, Ibrahim Adan Ali, as well as Minister of Information Mohamed, but the calls would not connect. CPJ messaged the governor, who acknowledged receipt of the message but did not respond further.
Mohamed and Somalia’s deputy police commissioner, General Zakia Hussein Ahmed, did not reply to CPJ’s requests for comment sent via messaging.
A July 2020 report by the news website Horn Observer included an interview with Abdiwali’s widow Luul Abdi Mire, who said that there had been no independent criminal investigation into the killing of the journalist.