It was the first time that Al-Shabaab has managed to carry a terrorist attack of this scale in Kismayo – long one of its strongholds – since losing control of this port city, the commercial capital of the semi-autonomous Jubaland region, in 2012.
After exploding a car-bomb outside the Medina Hotel, Al-Shabaab fighters stormed inside and opened fire on guests. When the attack took place, traditional elders and local politicians were meeting inside to discuss next month’s regional elections in Jubaland.
The two media fatalities were Mohamed Sahal Omar, who worked for SBS, a TV channel based in the northwestern Puntland region, and Hodan Nalayeh, who spent her school years in Canada and who had Canadian as well as Somali nationality.
According to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Omar was shot while trying to film the Al-Shabaab fighters with his mobile phone. Nalayeh was badly wounded in the attack and died in hospital. Since returning to Somalia in 2018, she had been running Integration TV, a very popular media outlet channel with more than 140,000 followers on Facebook.
“Somali journalists continue to be the ones who are most exposed to this kind of attack in Africa,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “With a total of 58 journalists killed in the past ten years, Somalia is Africa’s most dangerous country for media personnel. The death of these two reporters, the first to be killed this year in Somalia, is a reminder that the safety of journalists and combatting impunity should be among the government’s top priorities”
Three journalists were killed in connection with their work last year in Somalia, which is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.