Radio/T.V. reporter survives assassination attempt in Somalia

Mohamed Ibrahim Rush was the target of an assassination attempt in the Somali capital Mogadishu last month. The climate for reporters in Somalia continues to degrade as the Somali transitional government has all but ceased to function, and the Islamist militias assert more control over the country. MENASSAT talked with Rush.
Somalia Mohamed Ibrahim Rush
Somali Radio and T.V reporter Mohamed Ibrahim Rush

MOGADISHU, August 2, 2009 –(MENASSAT) - Last month Somali Radio and T.V reporter Mohamed Ibrahim Rush survived an assassination attempt after three unidentified masked gunmen followed him from his house and opened fire.

As a result, Ibrahim Rush nearly joined a growing list of reporters that have been killed in Somalia this year. Navi Pillay, the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, said that at least six reporters have been killed with four of them “apparently victims of targeted assassinations.”

Ibrahim Rush who works as a reporter for Horn Afrik Radio and T.V told MENASSAT that he cannot go anywhere in the streets since surviving the assassination.

“I have had to run away from my work and house,” recounting the story of his radio-T.V. director Said Tahlil Ahmed, who was assassinated in the most crowded market in Bakara in February near to where Horn Afrik’s station is located.

Journalists working in Somalia regardless of whether they are connected to a foreign or domestic news service are all fair game for kidnapping or assassination in the current climate, and things are particularly dangerous in the country’s capital, Mogadishu.

Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) website noted that an Australian photographer and Canadian reporter were kidnapped by armed men last August, and are still being held in Mogadishu.

And more recently (July 14), 15-armed men abducted two French security agents posing as journalists at the Sahafi Hotel in Mogadishu. As MENASSAT reported, members of the Islamist group Hizbul Islam were responsible for the abduction, but military sources have said that the agents were turned over to the country’s main Islamist group – Al-Shabaab – days later. The fate of the agents is unknown.

Somali journalist Abdi Ahmed Abdul told the Somalilandpress website last week that the battle for control of the country’s leadership by Al-Shabaab (Youth), the Islamist militia that controls much of the country and whose leadership has been allegedly linked to Al Qaeda, has successfully shut down any sense of press freedom in the areas it controls in Somalia.

Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam were formed out of the Islamic Courts Union that briefly controlled Somalia in 2006 until US Special Forces joined Ethiopian troops in toppling the ICU – installing a “transitional government” in its place.

But the transitional government is largely symbolic, controlling only a few square blocks of Mogadishu, and is protected from being toppled because of the 4,000 strong African Union force protecting its members. All but a few parliamentarians remain in the country after Somalia’s security minister, Omar Hashi Aden, was killed in a suicide car bombing orchestrated by Al-Shabaab.

Said Arif, a freelance journalist said that reporters working in Somalia are caught between “the two apposed groups in Somalia. The Somali Transitional Federal Government and the Islamic Opposition, and each are accused of killing Journalists loyal to the other.”

Government and militia factions arrested some 53 journalists in 2007 and 2008. Human Right Activist Halima Ali told MENASSAT, “Somali journalists are targeted by unidentified groups. They killed directors of the two local Radio stations this year - Shebelle and Horn Afrik  - and they were killed near their Stations.”

Islamist militias shot and killed Hassan Mayow Hassan, a reporter for Shabelle Radio, on January 1 in the agricultural town of Afgoye, and the assassination of Ibrahim Rush’s boss at Horn Afrik in February was likely the result of the station’s coverage of the presidential election coverage held in Djibouti in late January, which Al-Shabaab rejected.

Referring to the Islamists apparent targeting of journalists, Ahmed Abdul told Somalilandpress, “I am scared. If they see me talking to somebody in English, I’d be in danger. If anybody is speaking in English, they think he is a spy. It means I am passing information to foreigners, what they call Christians or infidels, people they don’t like.”

Although he doesn't work for an international news outlet, Ibrahim Rush says that it is no longer possible for him to work in his country.

“If I have some money to travel, and to save my life and the life of my family…I WILL travel,” Rush told MENASSAT. Eyes watering he pleaded for journalists and press freedom groups around the world to help him. 

Sources told MENASSAT that at least ten Journalists in Mogadishu have halted their work after receiving messages from “unknown groups.”