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Five journalists attacked by armed men, equipment stolen; three journalists released

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 30 March 2007 IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns Shooting Attack on Journalists' Car in Somalia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the attack on five journalists whose car was ambushed by armed men as they went to cover a story in Hiran region in central Somalia.

"We condemn this attack on the journalists in Hiran," said Gabriel Baglo Director of IFJ Africa Office. "We call on the authorities of Middle Shabelle region to conduct a serious investigation on this case and to bring the perpetrators to justice."

On Thursday morning the journalists were ambushed by five armed men as they were heading to Bule Burde district of Hiran Region to cover a story about an object that reportedly fell from space.

According to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), unknown gunmen opened fire on a vehicle carrying Mohammed Sheik Nur, a stringer for Associated Press, Mohammed Ibrahim Isak, a stringer for New York Times, Abshir Ali Gabre, a journalist for Radio Jowhar and two freelance journalists. The car was forced to pull over and the gunmen stole six cameras, six mobile phones and some money from the journalists. They also spanked Nur.

Also on Thursday, in the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland (northern Somalia), two journalists and an executive at the private newspaper Haatuf were released after spending about three months in jail for defaming the President and his family.

According to Afrol news agency, few details were known on the release of the journalists and how it was accomplished.

The Somaliland President promised on 21 February to pardon the Haatuf journalists if they were convicted.

"We welcome the release of Haatuf journalists and we urge the Somaliland authorities to give back the licence of the newspaper," said Gabriel Baglo.

Haatuf newspaper chairman Yusuf Abdi Gabobe, editor-in-chief Ali Abdi Dini and journalist Mohammed Omar Sheik were sentenced on 4 March to jail terms ranging from two years to two years and five months. At the time, another journalist, Mohammed Rashid Farah, was given the same sentence in absentia as his whereabouts are unknown. The court fined the newspaper 5 million Somaliland shillings (800 US dollars) and revoked its licence.

Gabobe, Dini and Sheik were detained by authorities in early January after they published articles about the president's relatives and government members who were allegedly involved in corruption.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries.

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58 people killed. 0 people convicted. Today we are tweeting for justice: http://t.co/a2baVFpJR3 #AmpatuanMassacre