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Somali journalist who killed colleagues sentenced to death

March 3, 2016

A Somali journalist who masterminded the assassination of five colleagues for the Al-Qaeda linked Shebab was sentenced to death Thursday after confessing to their murders, a court in the capital ruled.

“Hassan Hanafi is sentenced to death, after the court has found him guilty of all charges against him,” judge Hassan Ali told the military court. “All the evidence brought in support of the case and the witnesses show that he had key roles in the masterminding and execution of the murder of several journalists.”

The court said that Hanafi had confessed to the killings and to being a member of the Shebab, but that he may still appeal the sentence. Death sentences in Somalia are usually carried out by firing squad.

Dozens of former colleagues turned up to court to see Hanafi sentenced.

He was arrested in August 2014 in Kenya and extradited to Somalia late that year.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to operate, with some attacks believed to be linked to score-settling among the multiple factions in power, as well as by the Shebab.

Shebab rebels have carried out repeated attacks in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya as part of their fight to overthrow the country’s internationally-backed government, as well as the African Union troops supporting it, which include Kenyan soldiers.

Hanafi was arrested in the Kenyan capital after reportedly travelling there for medical treatment.

The Shebab operate their own radio station and regularly release propaganda videos, and were previously active on Twitter before their accounts were shut down.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.