Somali security forces shut radio station, arrest 20: employee

MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somali security forces stormed one of Mogadishu's main radio stations Friday, August 15, arresting 20 staff members and seizing equipment, accusing it of "negative" broadcasts about military operations against a militia leader, an employee said.

"They have arrested 20 members of staff, including the director, and equipment including for transmission was also seized," said Mohammed Bashir, a producer for the Radio Shabelle station.

"I escaped only because I had gone to pray," Bashir added.

A security official, who asked not to be named, described as "negative" the station's reports on government efforts to disarm a powerful militia commander in Mogadishu, which began in a pre-dawn raid on Friday.

Sky FM radio, broadcasting from the same building, was also taken off air.

Radio Shabelle has been briefly shut by the government at least 3 times in recent years.

It has also been threatened by Somalia's hardline Shebab fighters over its reporting, and several of its journalists and two of its directors have been killed.

This time the station was closed after heavy fighting against troops loyal to local militia leader Ahmed Dai.

African Union troops backed government forces in the battle to seize weapons from the militia.

Bursts of gunfire and heavy explosions were reported before dawn with rocket-propelled grenades fired by both sides, with witnesses reporting at least 5 dead.

Government troops said they had taken control after a fierce battle lasting several hours.
Somalia's government launched a disarmament campaign earlier this month. – Rappler.com