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Radio director assassinated in busy market

Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe was killed on 7 June
Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe was killed on 7 June

NUSOJ

A radio director was shot in the head five times while strolling through a bustling Mogadishu market with a colleague on 7 June, report the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

Muktar Mohamed Hirabe, director of Radio Shabelle, died on the scene while Ahmed Omar Hashi, the news editor of the radio station, is currently receiving treatment for bullet wounds. According to RSF, the Islamist al-Shabaab militia controls the district of the Bakara market where the killing took place.

Describing the killing to NUSOJ, Hashi said, "I glanced back and saw a youth in his early 20s standing on Hirabe and shooting Hirabe in the head. It was the most savage and violent action I have ever witnessed."

NUSOJ called the murder a "premeditated and targeted killing."

CPJ reports that the attack may have been in retribution for news stories that falsely claimed Islamist opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was killed or seriously injured during a recent conflict that left more than 120 people dead. Radio Shabelle colleagues told CPJ the motivation could be even more sinister - they speculate insurgents may be targeting Somalia's independent radio stations in an effort to take over the airwaves.

With a majority of its workers in hiding or having fled Mogadishu, Radio Shabelle is currently off the air, the editor-in-chief told CPJ.

The assassination occurred on the first anniversary of the murder of Nasteh Daher Farah, NUSOJ's vice president.

The killing also comes less than two weeks after two Somali journalists were killed on the job on 26 May. The killing of Hirabe brings the number of journalists killed in the war-ravaged country in 2009 to five. Three of the journalists killed this year worked for the influential and independently owned Radio Shabelle.

RSF reports that Somalia's security situation has only worsened since President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed took office.

Meanwhile, freelance Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan remain captive in an undisclosed location in Somalia since their abduction last August. CPJ has expressed concern about the journalists' health after the two were heard from last month, for the first time since their kidnapping. In an arranged phone call with an Agence France-Presse (AFP) correspondent, Lindhout said she had been sick for months, adding that she's forced to drink unclean water and is provided "at most" one meal a day. Brennan complained of a high fever and said he had been kept in shackles for four months.

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