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Radio station manager, journalist arrested, station closed after broadcasting rebel leader's suicide bombing claim

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF calls for the release of Abdullahi Ali Farah, the manager of the privately-owned, Mogadishu-based radio station Radio Simba, and Mohamed Farah, one of his journalists, who were arrested on 11 October 2007 after broadcasting an interview with the head of the military wing of the Islamic Courts.

"The absolute power accorded to the troops in Mogadishu logically leads to arbitrary rule, to which journalists often fall victim," the press freedom organisation said. "The serious political crisis currently shaking the Somali government gives them a free hand to act as they wish. The rule of law must be restored at once in the capital to put an end to these abuses."

Somali security forces arrived in two pickups at Radio Simba at around 8:00 a.m. (local time) on 11 October, arrested the two journalists and took them away to an unknown location. The station has been closed.

Shortly before the raid, Radio Simba broadcast an interview with Sheikh Mukhtar Ali Robow, the military chief of the Islamic Courts, in which he claimed responsibility for a suicide car-bomb attack on an Ethiopian army checkpoint in the western city of Baidoa, near the hotel where Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi lives.

Also known as "Abou Mansour," Robow was recently appointed as spokesman of the Islamic Courts, the Islamist movement that was ousted in December 2006 from Mogadishu by the transitional federal government, with the Ethiopian army's help. The Islamist rebels, some of whom are now based in Eritrea, have been waging daily attacks on the Somali government and the Ethiopian troops still in Somalia.

The growing split within the Somali government between the prime minister's supporters and those of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed culminated on 11 October in the resignation of 22 ministers, including the ministers of interior, defence, finance, education and information.

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