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Islamist militants raid 2 independent radio stations in Mogadishu

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Al-Shabaab and Hizbul al-Islam raid two radio stations in Mogadishu
  • Militants removed transmitters and computers from stations
  • Five radio stations in Mogadishu have been seized by militants this year
  • Somalia
  • Islamism
  • Mogadishu
  • African Union

(CNN) -- Armed Islamist militants raided and looted two radio stations in Somalia's beleaguered capital this weekend, according to statements issued Sunday by the government's Ministry of Information and a Somali journalists' group.

HornAfrik and Global Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) were raided by al-Shabaab and Hibzul al-Islam, respectively.

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) said in a statement that al-Shabaab militants entered the HornAfrik station late Saturday, chasing away journalists and destroying cassettes and CDs, both in HornAfrik and in its sister broadcasting house, Capital Voice.

Witnesses said transmitters and computers were removed, along with the rest of the station's equipment.

HornAfrik was launched in the late 1990s and was the first independent broadcaster in Mogadishu. Both a radio and television station, HornAfrik is located near Mogadishu's Bakara market. The area is controlled by al-Shabaab and has been the site of much fighting between Islamists and Somali government forces.

Al-Shabaab, which has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda, controls much of southern Somalia and portions of Mogadishu. It follows the strict Saudi Arabian-inspired Wahabi interpretation of Islam, rather than the Sufi Islam of many Somalis.

GBC was raided by militant group Hizbul al-Islam. The station is located in the Heliwa district of northeast Mogadishu. A journalist at the station said the raid was preceded by a letter of notification demanding that the station be handed over to the group.

Somalia's Minister of Information condemned the raids in a statement Sunday.

"Assassinations, intimidation, and looting of equipment are part of efforts to silence the private media," Abdirahman Omar Osman said. "Such acts will destroy the achievements made by Somalia's media during the last decade. A free media that can operate without any intimidation and fear from the extremists is vital for the good of the country."

A statement from NUSOJ Secretary-General Omar Faruk Osman echoed those sentiments.

"Taking over the ownership and control of independent radio stations by force and putting the owners and the journalists in a state of panic, risk and fear is a criminal act that cannot be condoned by anybody," Osman said. "This is unacceptable and amounts to the highest degree of media freedom violation."

The weekend's raids bring the number of radio stations seized by militants in Mogadishu this year to five. Less than a month ago, al-Shabaab militants seized another privately-owned Mogadishu station, Radio Holy Quran (IQK), according to NUSOJ. The group said IQK also received a letter from the militants before the raid.

Earlier this year, al-Shabaab and Hizbul al-Islam ordered radio stations in the Somali capital to stop playing music. HornAfrik was one of three stations that defied that ban.

Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991. Islamic militant groups are waging a war against the transitional government and African Union peacekeeping forces.

Journalist Mohamed Amiin Adow contributed to this report.