Hassan Hanafi, a former media officer for al-Shabaab, sits inside the dock at the courthouse in Mogadishu on March 3, 2016. (Photo by Feisal Omar/Reuters)
Somalia executed two alleged members of al-Shabaab by firing squad in Mogadishu on Saturday for the murder of a journalist last year.Hindia Haji Mohamed, a producer and reporter for state-run outlets Radio Mogadishu and Somali National TV, was killed in a bombing last December. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said someone planted an explosive device under the seat of her car and detonated it using a remote control.
Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement read on Radio Andalus, a mouthpiece for insurgents in the area.The two men executed on Saturday were Abdirisak Mohamed Barow and Hassan Nur Al. They reportedly confessed to being members of al-Shabaab during their trial, and were sentenced to death by a military court in February.Four other men were also sentenced for their roles as co-conspirators in Mohamed's murder. Mo'allin Mohmed Abukar Ali and Mo'alin Mohamed Sheikh Yusef were given life sentences. The other two men were sentenced to 15 and 10 years in prison, respectively, according to local news reports. All six men unsuccessfully appealed their convictions.
Mohamed's late husband, Liban Ali Nur, was a journalist with the same television station and was the target of a suicide attack on a Mogadishu restaurant in 2012.According to CPJ's research, journalists working for Somali state-run media outlets are frequently threatened or targeted by militants in the area. Reporters without Borders, another press freedom group, said Mohamed was the 38th Somali journalist killed on the job since 2010.CPJ said most journalists killed in Somalia are "targeted by al-Shabaab militants who for years have threatened and assaulted journalists in relation to their coverage of the group's activities." Since 1992, when Somalia's ongoing civil war began, 63 percent of journalists killed in the country were covering politics, compared to 46 percent covering conflict, according to CPJ.
Last month, a military court in Mogadishu sentenced Hassan Hanafi to death for allegedly helping al-Shabaab kill five journalists. Hanafi worked as a journalist himself for the extremist group's radio mouthpiece. He allegedly helped the group identify possible targets, and would often call journalists and threaten to kill them if they didn't join al-Shabaab. When Judge Hassan Ali handed down his verdict, he said that evidence showed that Hanafi had "key roles in the masterminding and execution of the murder of several journalists," according to the AFP.
In 2014, a suicide bomber attacked a restaurant in Baidoa popular with local officials and journalists, killing 15 people. Al-Shabaab's spokesman Abdiaziz Abu Mus'ab claimed responsibility for the attack, which he said targeted Ethiopians, spies and officials. Al-Shabaab often refers to journalists as "spies," according to CPJ.The Somali government has been frequently criticized by the international journalist community for its apparent failure to adequately investigate journalists' deaths. Somalia tops CPJ's list of countries where journalists' killers go unpunished.Last April, Dauld Ali Omar, a producer for an independent pro-government radio station, was murdered with his wife, while he was sleeping. Regional police blamed al-Shabaab for the attack, but the killers have so far escaped justice.
Al-Shabaab, which means "The Youth" in Arabic, is a radical splinter group from Somalia's former governing party, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which controlled Mogadishu for about six months until it was ousted by a UN-backed transitional government and its Ethiopian military allies in 2011. Al-Shabaab has since been pushed out of Somalia's main towns, but it continues to wage a violent insurgency against the internationally-backed government.On Thursday, a new Somali militant group, "Jahba East Africa," which is believed to be mostly comprised of al-Shabaab defectors, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State the group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. According to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors terrorist activity across the world, Jabha East Africa condemned al-Shabaab for being a "psychological and physical prison" and urged militants in the area to instead join their ranks.Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowenWatch the VICE News documentary Somalia: The Fight Against al Shabaab: