NEW YORK, 4 December 2009 (Somalilandpress) – Three journalists were among the victims of a suicide bombing at a Benadir University graduation ceremony in Mogadishu today. At least 22 people were killed at Hotel Shamo, including three government ministers, by suspected Islamic insurgents, according to The Associated Press.
Hassan Zubeyr, a cameraman for the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television network and Radio Shabelle reporter Mohamed Amin were killed instantly in the explosion, local journalists told CPJ. Yasir Mairo, who recently took up freelance photography part-time, died of injuries in the hospital, according to local journalists. CPJ was unable to determine immediately if Mairo was on assignment for a specific outlet.
Including Mairo, seven journalists were injured in the explosion, CPJ’s 2009 Press Freedom Award winner Mustafa Haji Abdinur said. Two of the journalists, Reuters photographer Omar Faruk and Abdulkadir Omar Abdulle, a reporter for Universal TV, a local TV station in Mogadishu, are in critical condition and receiving treatment at Medina Hospital in the capital, Abdinur said.
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The three deaths bring the total number of journalists killed in Somalia to nine this year.
“We send our deepest condolences to the families of Hassan Zubeyr, Mohamed Amin, and Yasir Mairo,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “This heinous act underscores the great dangers journalists face in Somalia. The country’s position as the deadliest country in Africa for journalists has been cemented.”
Mohamed Olad, BBC correspondent and spokesman for the press freedom group Somali Journalists of Foreign Media Outlets, spoke to both journalists moments before the blast. “I am really still in shock,” Olad told CPJ. “I was just speaking to these two colleagues but had left them to interview some of the graduating students.” Hassan and Amin had gone closer to the front of the hotel’s assembly hall to listen to speeches by the government ministers when the bomb exploded, Olad said.
Zubeyr, 31, was a head technician at Radio Shabelle before he left to work as a cameraman at Al-Arabiya in 2006, exiled Radio Shabelle journalist Babuul Nur told CPJ. He is survived by his pregnant wife and four children.
According to Radio Shabelle producer Hassan Osman, his colleague Amin, 24, had lost both of his parents and supported his younger siblings as the sole breadwinner in the family. Amin is the fourth Radio Shabelle journalist killed this year; Radio Shabelle’s director, Mukhtar Hirabe, was gunned down by insurgents in Mogadishu in June. Only five journalists are still working at the Shabelle Radio and Television station in the volatile capital, Osman said.
Mairo, in his early 20s, was an active soccer player and had started working part-time as a freelance photographer recently, local journalists told CPJ. Mairo was the only photographer to cover a suicide car bomb attack against African Union peacekeepers in September that killed 21 people, Olad said.
Somali Information Minister Dahir Mohamud Gelle told the BBC that the suicide bomber was disguised as a woman and used a concealed belt bomb in the packed hall. Gelle confirmed that three ministers including Health Minister Qamar Aden, Education Minister Ahmed Abdullahi, and Higher Education Minister Ibrahim Hassan were killed in the attack. The minister of sports and tourism, Suleiman Olad Roble, a former journalist, was also injured in the explosion, according to local journalists.
The graduating students were receiving their diplomas at the Hotel Shamo, which is based in one of the few areas ostensibly controlled by the government in Mogadishu. Benadir University was set up in 2002 to train doctors to replace those who had fled overseas or been killed in the civil war.
Islamic insurgent groups have been battling the government for control of Mogadishu since December 2006. Rebel groups control must of southern and central Somalia, as well as significant portions of the capital.
CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.