Somali Islamists close radio station, arrest journalists

Islamic militants arrested three journalists in southern Somalia on Friday morning, after shutting down a prominent radio station they accused of broadcasting stories critical of their organisation.

Militiamen arrested the reporters for Radio HornAfrik and were holding them at a police station for questioning, said Sheikh Ibrahim Mohamed, a spokesperson for the Islamic courts in Kismayo.

“We have arrested them for conveying wrong messages to the people that are against the Islamic courts,” Mohamed said. “We are investigating their cases.”

The three journalists were identified as Sahro Abdi Ahmed, Layla Sheikh Adan Ismail and Adan Mohamed Salad. HornAfrik is a privately owned radio and television broadcaster based in Mogadishu.

Late on Thursday, four armoured vehicles with Islamic militia aboard surrounded HornAfrik’s offices and retransmission station in Kismayo and closed it down, according to Ahmed Mohamed Aden, director of the radio station.

The National Union of Somali Journalists issued a statement later condemning the move.

“We are strongly bothered by this show of aggression against this media house, which is a conscious attack on freedom of press and fundamental freedom of expression,” said Omar Faruk Osman, Secretary General of the union.
“We call upon the Islamic Courts Council to immediately end this violation.”

But Sheik Abdirahim Ali Mudey, head of the Islamic courts information office in Mogadishu, said the reporters could be convicted under Islamic law if the their reports were found to be inaccurate.

“If their reporters are convicted they will be punished according to sharia law; if not they will be released as soon as possible,” he said.

The arrests come the day after Somali police investigating a car bombing in Baidoa—the only town held by the weak, internationally backed government—arrested two suspected members of the Islamic courts and recovered explosives on Thursday, an official said.

Baidoa Governor Ahmed Madey Issaq told The Associated Press police in three armoured vehicles raided a house on Thursday morning after a tip that the car used by the suicide bomber in the September 18 assassination attempt on the president had been seen leaving the house on the day of the attack.

One of the men seized was a prayer leader at a mosque in Baidoa, 250km from the capital, Mogadishu.

Later on Thursday, police said they had released a local Islamic charity worker, one of three men originally arrested, because he had been detained by mistake. Police say they are still searching for four men. The explosives found were identical to those used in the attack, police added.

President Abdullahi Yusuf escaped the assassination attempt unharmed. The blast killed Yusuf’s brother and four other members of the presidential detail. In an ensuing gun battle, six suspected accomplices of the bomber were killed and two were captured.

No one claimed responsibility for the first suicide bombing in Somalia. The hard-line Islamic movement has denied having anything to do with it, and repeated the denial on Thursday.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another, throwing the country into anarchy.—Sapa-AP

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