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Somalia16 May 2007

Two journalists shot dead while travelling with provincial governor’s convoy

Two Radio Jowhar reporters were killed yesterday when gunmen ambushed the convoy of the governor of the central province Middle Shabelle, in which they were travelling, Reporters Without Borders has learned from its local partner organisation, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).

“Two journalists have once again fallen victim to the extreme volatility of Somalia’s security situation,” the press freedom organisation said. “Journalists are both unwanted witnesses and easy targets for gunmen. But we refuse to accept the inevitability of these recurring tragedies. The transitional federal government must get together with Somali’s journalists and consider adopting special protective measures for the press.”

A delegation led by governor Mohammed Omar Deele set off yesterday from the provincial capital of Jowhar for the locality of Addale to mediate between rival clans that have clashed over a piece of disputed land in the past few days leaving a toll of at least 16 dead.

The two reporters with privately-owned Radio Jowhar, Abshir Ali Gabra and Ahmed Hassan, were travelling in the first vehicle. Gabra was also a correspondent of privately-owned Radio Quran Kariim, while Hassan was also a correspondent of the Puntland-based Somalia Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).

They were killed instantly when the convoy came under fire from a group of unidentified gunmen at about 6 pm as it entered the disputed territory. Six of the governor’s bodyguards were also killed in the ensuing shootout.

“The tragic deaths of our two colleagues bring the number of journalists killed in Somalia since the start of the year to four,” NUSOJ secretary-general Omar Faruk Osman told Reporters Without Borders. “We are very worried that Somalia could become a smaller version of Iraq, with one journalist after another being killed with complete impunity.”

Osman said Gabra was a member of the NUSOJ supreme council, which functions as a sort of “parliament” for the organisation.

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