Sunday, September 19, 2010

Two radio stations in Mogadishu taken over by Islamist rebels

Sunday, September 19, 2010
Two independent radio stations in Mogadishu were on Sunday taken off air and their equipment were also confiscated by Islamist rebels, station staff said.

The stations, HornAfrik Radio and Global Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) were separately raided by heavily armed fighters from the two Islamist groups of Al Shabaab and Hezbul Islam respectively. "We were ordered to switch off the radio and the management was told that the station would be under the control of Hezbul Islam," Ahmed Abdi Hassan, a reporter with GBC told Xinhua.

Fighters from Al Shabaab group have also stormed the station building of HornAfrik radio in the insurgent stronghold of Mogadishu and forcibly taken away the FM equipment and computers in the station studio.

It was not immediately clear why the Islamist groups have raided stations in the section of the Somali capital where they control.

Neither group nor station owners has officially commented on the surprise takeover of the two independent radio stations.

One of the stations, HornAfrik, has been off the air for few days before the news of its takeover emerged on Sunday. Some reports suggest that differences between the station management have led to its closure after one side sought the intervention of Islamist fighters from Al Shabaab.

The stations have been neutral in their coverage of the conflict between the Somali government and Islamist groups as well as the African Union peacekeeping troops backing the Somali government forces.

The Al Shabaab Islamist movement which controls much of south and centre of Somalia has previously confiscated the equipment of two Mogadishu radio stations while another, Holy Quran Radio or IQK, which has been independent, has now been turned into a mouthpiece of the radical group after they took it over.

All radio stations in the insurgent held provinces in south- central Somalia have either been closed down or taken over and turned into a pro-Islamist media while no independent media is allowed to operate freely in the Islamist controlled areas.

Islamist groups have banned local radio stations from airing music or calling the groups other than their full official names.

Several journalists have been killed or wounded for the past two years in Somalia which has not had an effective government for almost a decade, and is considered one of the worst places for journalists to operate.

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