Gunmen Kill Prominent Somali Journalist

By: Mohamed Olad Hassan
By: Mohamed Olad Hassan

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Masked men shot and killed the director of Somalia's largest media organization, HornAfrik, in the center of the Somali capital on Wednesday, the company and witnesses said.

The three gunmen killed the director, Said Tahlil Ahmed, while he was walking through Mogadishu's largest market, Bakara, the company said in the statement posted on its Web site.

He was with six other journalists, three of whom gave separate interviews to The Associated Press to describe what happened. They said the group was on its way to meet Islamic leaders when the masked gunmen stopped them, brought them to a corner of the market and repeatedly shot Ahmed in the chest. The other journalists then fled the scene and suffered no injuries, the witnesses said on condition of anonymity out of fear for their own safety.

It was unclear why the gunmen targeted Ahmed, and no one immediately claimed responsibility for the killing.

Two global advocacy groups condemned the attack.

"Our thoughts are with the family of this courageous and respected journalist and with his colleagues on HornAfrik, yet again hit by the despicable murder of its director," Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said in statement.

"We are shocked by the killing of Said Tahlil and send our deepest condolences to his family and colleagues," said Tom Rhodes, the Africa program coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Ahmed took over as director after his predecessor, Ali Iman Sharmarke, was killed in August 2007. Sharmarke, who owned HornAfrik, was killed by a remote-controlled land mine as he drove home. Sharmarke had just attended the burial of a colleague who had been killed the same day.

Before his death, Ahmed hosted a weekly a call-in show focusing on the topical issues in the country. He also did short daily commentary on the news of the day.

Three Somali Canadians established HornAfrik in 1999.

It was the first independent radio station to be formed after Somalia's last functioning government collapsed in 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The company began with a radio station broadcasting in Mogadishu but has since expanded to transmit satellite television programs.

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