September 19, 2007

Radio Shabelle building in Mogadishu besieged by security forces, staff evacuated

Reporters Without Borders calls on the transitional federal government to order its forces to lift the siege on the building in Mogadishu that houses privately-owned Radio Shabelle and to allow its journalists to go back to work. The building has been surrounded by security forces since yesterday morning.

“Mogadishu’s violence must not be used as a pretext for such acts of hostility towards the staff of Radio Shabelle or other media,” the press freedom organisation said. “It is time the Somali government took measures to allow journalists in the capital to play the important role that is their job. The security forces must be given clear orders to recognise their neutrality and guarantee their security.”

The situation began when a mixed unit of Somali police and intelligence personnel tried to enter the building housing Radio Shabelle and privately-owned ISP Global Internet yesterday morning after a grenade was thrown at a patrol in the neighbourhood.

When the building’s security guard refused to let them in, the police used automatic weapons to fire several bursts at the building, including the second and third floors, where the station is located, smashing all the windows. A Radio Shabelle journalist told Reporters Without Borders that one of Global Internet’s guards was injured and an unidentified passer-by was killed.

The security forces then laid siege to the building for several hours before finally allowing employees to evacuate the building at the end of the afternoon, the same source said. Radio Shabelle has stopped broadcasting and the police are continuing to maintain their positions around the building. Global Internet is no longer operating either.

The building is located in the centre of Mogadishu, not far from its busiest intersection, Howlwadaag Junction, and not from Bakara market, now a rebel stronghold. The neighbourhood is often the scene of clashes and bombings.

The building’s owner is a member of the Ayr clan, which is known for its hostility towards the transitional government. The political leader in exile of the Islamic Courts, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, and their military chief, Yussuf Mohamed “Indahaade” Sayeed, are both prominent Ayr clan members. According to Reporters Without Borders’ sources, this could explain why the security forces have behaved so aggressively towards the building’s occupants.



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