Grenade Attack on Radio Station in Puntland
Series of Attacks Reflects Worsening Conditions for Journalists
By: Scott Griffen
VIENNA, 21 Oct. 2011 - Unknown assailants armed with hand grenades bombed the Radio Galkayo station in Galkayo, Puntland on 18 October, the latest in a series of attacks on journalists in the self-governing region, which is officially a part of Somalia.
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) reports that the bomb was thrown from the back fence of the station; no injuries were reported from the explosion, which caused slight damage to the building.
Speaking to NUSOJ, Radio Galkayo’s managing director, Abdullahi Hersi Adde, said he did not know why the radio station had been targeted, and expressed concern over the station’s security. “We have been lucky that nobody was harmed in the attack and all the staff are fine now,” he said. “But we are in fear now; we are very much worried about our safety.”
This was the second attack on Radio Galkayo in recent years. In January 2010, local news outlets reported an attack involving unknown grenade throwers, which resulted in significant damage to the roof and one of the studios. In August 2011, Daljir Radio, also in Galkayo, was similarly bombed and a security guard for the station was wounded, reports said.
Puntland has witnessed an alarming escalation of attacks on journalists in the past month. According to news reports, a female journalist for Radio Galkayo, Horriya Abdulkadir, remains hospitalized after being shot four times outside the station on 14 September. Hassan Mohamed Ali, a reporter for Voice of Peace Radio in the north-eastern port town of Bosaso, was severely wounded by a gunman eight days later.
Although no definite suspects have been identified in the shootings, both incidents took place at a time of increased violence purportedly orchestrated by the militant group al-Shabaab. The Puntland government has blamed the al-Qaeda-linked group for a series of assassinations of Puntland officials and public figures over the past two years. In early September, clashes in Galkayo – located near the Puntland-Somalia border – between Puntland government forces and suspected al-Shabaab members left at least 20 dead.
Puntland was established as a separate, self-governing entity by local clan elders in 1998, seven years after the collapse of the central Somali government following a decades-long civil war. Like its neighbour, Somaliland, Puntland has enjoyed a relative degree of stability in contrast to the chaos of southern Somalia. In recent years, however, piracy, clan in-fighting, and the increased reach of southern-based extremist groups such al-Shabaab have threatened the region’s limited success.
The International Press Institute joins NUSOJ in condemning both the bombing and the recent attacks on journalists in Puntland. IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said, “We are deeply concerned about the worsening climate for journalists in Puntland and we implore the Puntland authorities to search for the perpetrators and bring them to justice. These crimes must not go unpunished. The ability of journalists to work freely and without fear is critical to continued progress and stability in Puntland.”
Somalia remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, with two reporters killed so far this year, according the IPI’s Death Watch. Three journalists lost their lives in Somalia last year, including a newscaster for Radio Daljir in Galkayo, who died after being stabbed by unknown assailants.