- Militiamen working for businessman and self-proclaimed "Somali President" Abdinur Ahmed Darman have threatened and shot at journalists in Mogadishu, trying to conduct an interview. "President" Darman is one of Somalia's last war lords refusing to recognise newly elected Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf and his militias operate with impunity in the Somali capital.
Radio reporter Abdullahi Yassin Jama was slapped, threatened and shot at in Mogadishu after he and another journalist on Thursday had interviewed inhabitants of the "Camp Bosnia" refugee camp in the Somali capital. The camp houses civilians whose homes had been devastated by heavy rains. Mr Jama works for 'Radio Banadir' and conducted the interview together with Zeynab Abukar Mohammed, a journalist with 'HornAfrik Radio'.
- As we finished our work, four gunmen took up position at the entrance to the camp and stopped me, Mr Jama told the Somali Journalist Network (Sojon), a local press freedom organisation.
The militiamen belonged to warlord Darman's armed grouping. "They said to me, 'Show us your tape recorder and your recording and if we hear one word about the government of Abdullahi Yusuf, you will lose your life.'" Ms Mohammed had meanwhile hidden behind a kiosk after seeing that her colleague had been detained.
Mr Jama said that one of the militiamen slapped him several times and placed the barrel of his gun against his head. When a woman's voice was heard on the recording saying she hoped to be given a new home by the "Somali government in Kenya" - referring to the Yusuf government - Mr Jama ran off while the militiamen fired shots at him with their Kalashnikovs. He was not hit.
Ms Mohammed did not leave her hiding place until Mr Darman's militiamen had left the camp. Both she and Mr Jama are now out of danger.
The leader of the United Somali Republic Party (USRP), Mr Darman had himself proclaimed president by some 5,000 supporters gathered in Mogadishu in July 2003. He and his militia continue to exercise absolute power over certain districts of the capital and parts of southern Somalia.
A wealthy businessman more than a warlord, Mr Darman described himself as a "business deal facilitator" upon his return from exile in 2003. A UN report has accused him of being involved in counterfeiting money. He is one of the last clan chiefs refusing to recognise the authority of President Yusuf, who was sworn in before a meeting of the new Somali Parliament in Kenya on 14 October.
Sojon and the Paris-based media watchdogs Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) today strongly condemned the attacks on Mr Jama and Ms Mohammed by the militiamen of warlord Darman. "We once again protest against the regime of terror maintained with complete impunity by the faction chiefs in Somalia," RSF said in a statement today.
- The courage of Somalia's journalists is a credit to a country devastated by 13 years of anarchy and war, the French group said. "Abdinur Ahmed Darman should respect their work. Instead, the way his thugs assaulted and threatened [this] journalist bodes ill for his plans for Somalia," RSF added.
In the face of the brutality of Somalia's gunmen and the impunity they enjoy, RSF sent an appeal to MPs and the new President not to waste the opportunity being offered them. "The country needs to be rebuilt, and this cannot be done at the expense of journalists who, despite the constant violence, continue to do their work," the group said.
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