In the evening of March 1, 2021, two unidentified men shot and killed Jamal Farah Adan, a Somali journalist, while he was seated outside a shop he ran in the northern part of the city of Galkayo, in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland, according to media reports and separate statements published by two local press rights groups, the Media Association of Puntland and the Mogadishu-based Somali Journalists Syndicate.
Jamal had posted on his Facebook account, where he published commentary and reporting, that he had received threats from the militant group Al-Shabaab. On that group’s broadcaster, Radio Andalus, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for Jamal’s killing, according to news reports and a recording of the broadcast, which CPJ reviewed.
Jamal, who was in his fifties, had worked as a journalist since the 1990s, variously as a radio reporter, editor, and media manager, at outlets including the privately owned stations Radio Daljir, Radio Garowe, and Radio Galkayo; more recently he had published commentary and reports on two separate Facebook pages that have about 5,300 and 14,500 followers respectively, according to CPJ’s review of the pages, the rights groups’ statements, and Abadir Abdulkadir Elmi, president of the media rights group the Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ), who knew Jamal personally and spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Jamal’s posts shortly before his death included commentary about Somalia’s electoral crisis, in which he was critical of federal President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo, and interviews with local taxi drivers upset about the depreciation of the local currency.
Jamal was also critical of Al-Shabaab; in a video from December 28, 2020, he urged residents of Galkayo to rise against the militant group and claimed that local officials had conspired to help some militants escape justice; in that video he also said that an unidentified militant had threatened him in a phone call, and vowed to avenge himself against any member of the group who tried to kill him.
In a January 2, 2021, Facebook video Jamal claimed to have survived an assassination attempt by a member of Al-Shabaab, saying that he had captured the attacker and handed him over to the police. He also said he would find Al-Shabaab’s operatives in Galkayo, and urged local residents to assist police in stopping attacks.
In the Radio Andalus clip reviewed by CPJ, a presenter accused Jamal of being an apostate, of spying on the Muslim community, and of inciting residents of Galkayo against Al-Shabaab. The presenter’s allegations were interspersed with recordings said to be of Jamal, in which he spoke out against the group.
In a statement issued following Jamal’s killing, Puntland’s regional president, Said Abdullahi Deni, whose government controls the northern part of Galkayo, condemned the killing and directed security personnel to arrest the perpetrators.
Mumin Abdi Shire, a police commander in the region who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, said that police had identified three suspects as of March 12, 2021, and shared that information with a commission appointed by the president to investigate the case. On March 24, 2021, Mumin said that arrests had been made.
Mumin told CPJ in August 2021 that police had arrested five suspects in Jamal’s case—including the alleged perpetrators and those who ordered the killing—and charged them with murder.
Puntland presidential spokesperson Jama Deperani did not answer CPJ’s repeated calls or respond to multiple WhatsApp messages in March, August, and September 2021. CPJ emailed Puntland’s state house for comment but did not receive any response. A person who answered the phone when CPJ called the Puntland ministry of information asked that queries be sent via email. In response to that email, an official at the ministry of information referred CPJ to Puntland’s ministry of security.
In a September 4, 2021, email responding to CPJ’s queries about Jamal and two other journalists killed in Galkayo since 2012, 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 those convicted of killing journalists had been brought to justice, without specifying whether this included Jamal’s case; that the government was committed to protecting its citizens, including journalists; and invited CPJ to visit Puntland for more details about ongoing investigations. Mohamed Iman did not respond to a follow-up email from CPJ requesting more information.
In February 2022, a military court in Galkayo tried and convicted four people for Jamal’s killing, according to several media reports as well as reports published on Facebook and YouTube by Af Meer, social media channels that re-publish content associated with military court proceedings and terrorism in Somalia.
Two of the men–Bashir Abdullahi Mohamed, who said he was Jamal’s distant relative and is also known as Adde, and Abdikani Suleiman Jama, also known as Seylor–confessed to being members of the Al-Shabaab and shooting Jamal to death, according to the Af Meer YouTube video, which includes clips of court proceedings. They were both sentenced to death, according to the media reports and the Af Meer YouTube video. Two others, Hassan Jama Mohamed and Mohamed Ali Ahmed, accused of coordinating and organizing the killing, were sentenced to 25 years in prison and 15 years in prison respectively, according to these same sources. The defendants had 30 days to appeal the ruling, according to the Af Meer YouTube report.
Appeals were pending in the case in August 2022 and were due to be heard in September 2022, according to Mohamed Iman, the director general of Puntland’s ministry of security, who spoke to CPJ via telephone, and Mumin, who spoke to CPJ in statements via messaging application. Mohamed Iman said the delays were due to the disruption of the military court’s calendar by Somalia’s presidential elections in May 2022. Mumin told CPJ that he did not yet have information whether any more suspects were at large as of late August 2022; and that he would provide such information once he had it.
Speaking to CPJ via telephone in March and August 2022, Amina Yusuf Ahmed, Jamal’s widow, said that she had been informed of the conviction of the four men and the pending legal process in which the courts were expected to issue a final ruling on the defendants’ appeal.