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Kidnapped journalist freed after five days

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 1 March 2010: A Somali radio journalist kidnapped in Mogadishu on 27 March was freed on Thursday.

Radio journalist Abdul Karim Mohamed Hersi was freed last night by the Islamist insurgent group Al Shabab, according to National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) Coordinator Mohamed Ibrahim. Hersi, a reporter with Mogadishu-based Radio Holy Koran, had been taken from the station by armed militants as he was preparing to broadcast the news hour, an anonymous Holy Koran spokesperson was quoted by the African Press Agency as saying.

Al Shabab, which has been linked to Al Qaeda, controls most of South and Central Somalia. The militant group controls large portions of the capital, where fighting between the insurgent group and Somali government forces continues.

It is believed Hersi was kidnapped because of a comment he made during a Saturday news programme, an anonymous Radio Holy Koran source told NUSOJ Coordinator Ibrahim.

District commissioner Ahmed Sheik Mohamed Odawa had been killed earlier on Saturday by an improvised explosive device that struck his convoy as it travelled through a combat zone around Aden Ade International Airport, local news reports said. Al Shabab militants later claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a separate incident last Saturday, a journalist from Mogadishu-based Voice of Peace radio was hit by a stray sniper bullet, Ibrahim told IPI. Abdul Fatah Hassim Noor was struck in the left kidney at around 8 p.m. as fighting continued nearby in the capital. He was brought to Medina Hospital for treatment, which was successful. Ibrahim told IPI that the reporter was now recovering at home.

Somali Information Ministry official Abdi Ali told IPI: "The journalists in Somalia are facing many difficulties. We have many times tried to express our concern but the government of Somalia only controls some buildings in the capital, and most of the country is under Shabab. They dictate to journalists what to report."

Abdi Ali, who has also worked as a correspondent for several foreign news outlets, said that besides government-run Radio Mogadishu, all other radio stations in the capital had been forced to air Al Shabab's news, and that many journalists had already left the country.

"Everyone who says a word of truth must be killed; this is the threat of Al Shabab," Abdi Ali said.

IPI Director David Dadge said: "IPI condemns the abduction of journalist Abdul Karim Mohamed Hersi. Al Shabab should recognize that their contempt for journalists is nothing more than disregard for the people they claim to serve."

Al Shabab has been criticized for its efforts to remake Somali radio stations in their own image, by banning the airing of music and punishing journalists who make mention of the United Nations-backed Transitional Federal Government.

Hersi is the fourth journalist to be kidnapped by Al Shabab members since the beginning of 2010.

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