Awil Dahir Salad, a veteran broadcast journalist, was one of at least 26 people who died on December 22, 2018, in twin bomb attacks in Mogadishu, according to media reports. Awil, the host of a popular political debate show on the privately owned Universal TV, died alongside three of his colleagues—a driver and two bodyguards—according to media reports and a statement from the government-recognized National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).
Awil and his colleagues died at the scene of the first attack, according to a journalist familiar with the case who spoke to the Committee to Protect Journalists on the condition that he not be named for fear of retaliation.
The driver was Abdiqadir Hassan Yusuf, and the bodyguards were Mohamed Dubad Gajow and Ibrahim Mohayadin Ahmed, according to a UNESCO statement.
The four Universal TV employees were driving through a checkpoint near the presidential palace in Mogadishu when the first car bomb went off, according to the NUSOJ statement and the journalist familiar with the case. They were in an unmarked company car, headed to the Universal TV studios, which are about 300 meters away from the checkpoint, according to the journalist. A second car bomb went off near the first attack shortly afterwards, according to media reports.
The Associated Press reported that the militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for both attacks, which “appeared to target people heading to work on what was a business day” in Mogadishu.
It is unlikely that Awil and his colleagues were directly targeted, according to the same journalist and the NUSOJ secretary general, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, who both told CPJ that it was more likely that they were “at the wrong place, at the wrong time.”
Awil, 45, had worked as a journalist since the 1980s, when he joined the state-owned Radio Mogadishu, according to the NUSOJ statement. He worked for Universal TV in various capacities since 2005, including as a news anchor and as deputy general director of the London-based station, according to the journalist who asked not to be named. Awil frequently traveled with bodyguards out of concern that his high-profile job put him at risk of attack, according to the same journalist.
Al-Shabab is responsible for numerous attacks within Somalia and across the region, according to media reports and research by the International Crisis Group, a conflict prevention and resolution organization. The Somali government blames al-Shabab for the country’s deadliest terror attack, which took place in 2017 and claimed at least 500 lives, including at least one journalist, according to media reports and CPJ research.
According to a December 22 tweet from the unverified account of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency, authorities had detained two people in connection to the attacks. CPJ was unable to independently corroborate these reports.
A January 13, 2019, email sent to Abdirahman Yusuf Al-Adala, the director general of the Somali federal ministry of information, went unanswered, as did two phone calls and text messages to police commissioner Bashir Abdi Mohammed.