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Page last updated at 07:46 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 08:46 UK

Somali journalist: 'I saw my boss shot dead'

By Mohamed Mohamed
BBC Somali

Mr Hashi in hospital
Ahmed-Tajir Omar Hashi saw his colleague shot in the head

Somali journalist Ahmed-Tajir Omar Hashi was walking in Mogadishu's Bakara market with his boss, the head of one of the country's leading broadcasters, Radio Shabelle, recently when he heard the crack of gunfire.

"I was hit in the left hand and the bullet passed into my left side above the kidney. It felt as if I was hit with a little stone. I did not know what it was because I had never been shot before," says Mr Hashi who is recovering from his injuries in hospital.

"When I looked back, I saw Muktar Mohamed Hirabe lying on the ground and a man with a hand-gun standing above him. Then, I realised that I was in trouble and ran for my life.

Mr Hirabe became the fifth journalist to be killed this year in Somalia, which has become one of the world's most dangerous places for journalists to work.

Anonymous threats

"I touched my left side which was wet with blood. I felt a twinge in my stomach, probably where the bullet came out and when I ran my hand over it, one of my fingers went into the bullet hole," says Mr Hashi.

"I was running fast but I glanced back and I saw the young gunman shooting my colleague in the head again. He then fired a shot in my direction. I went into a building to escape."

An Islamist fighter in Mogadishu on 16 May 2009
The main Islamist insurgent groups have denied killing Mr Hirabe

Many journalists have received anonymous phone calls from people asking them to massage facts to work for what they say is "the defence of the country".

Sources told the BBC that in the week he was killed, Mr Hirabe also received these calls.

He was asked to give money to help what was described as the work of the "mujahideen" (holy warriors) in Somalia.

He refused and contacted leaders from the hardline Islamist group al-Shabab to check with them whether their people had made the threats.

Al-Shabab asked to see the phone numbers so they could check them out, but before he could do that he was killed in broad daylight in a Mogadishu street controlled by al-Shabab.

To show their respects, most media organisations stopped broadcasting and 14 of the best known Somali journalists said they would stop working until security improved.

They said that threats and assassinations made it impossible for them to work.

The editor of Radio Voice of Peace, Abdu-Aziz Mohamud Guled, said most of the journalists had been murdered in insurgent strongholds and seemed to be operating with impunity.

Holy war

Both main insurgent groups, the Islamic Party and al-Shabab, have denied involvement in the murder of Mr Hirabe, blaming what they call the enemies of the Somali people.

But some question the willingness of the hardline Islamists to catch those responsible for the murder of journalists.

The Islamists control Bakara Market where the murder took place and while they seem to be able to catch thieves with relative ease, a murderer has been able to walk away free.

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A reliable analyst told the BBC Somali Service that the anonymous callers are accusing journalists of carrying out anti-Islamic work and would be held accountable.

They are demanding that al-Shabab be known as Harakatu al-Shabab al-Mujahideen; which would effectively mean that journalists have to accept that al-Shabab are fighting a holy war for the benefit of all Somali people.

Faced with threats, kidnappings, beatings and even death, many journalists are turning their back on the profession or even fleeing the county.

The Somali government has condemned the latest killings and sent its condolences to the family of the deceased journalist.

Information Minister Farhan Ali said that the government knows that the killings are the work of groups that are against peace in Somalia and there will be a day when they will be held responsible for their actions.



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