Somali journalist Hassan Hanafi executed for supporting al Shabaab

Hassan Hanafi, a former media officer for the Somali Islamist group al Shabaab, stands tied to a pole before his execution by shooting at close range on a field in General Kahiye Police Academy in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, April 11, 2016. Photo/REUTERS
Hassan Hanafi, a former media officer for the Somali Islamist group al Shabaab, stands tied to a pole before his execution by shooting at close range on a field in General Kahiye Police Academy in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, April 11, 2016. Photo/REUTERS

A Somali journalist who helped al Shabaab kill five fellow reporters has been executed by firing squad.

Hassan Hanafi, once a respected broadcaster, was sentenced to death last month by a military court in the capital, Mogadishu.

He assisted the militant group by identifying possible targets among journalists between 2007 and 2011.

He joined its armed wing after working for Radio Andalus, al Shabaab's mouthpiece in Somalia.

More than 25 journalists have been murdered in Somalia since 2007, the Committee to Protect Journalists says.

While he was working for al Shabaab, Hanafi would call up journalists and threaten them with death if they refused to join the militant group, the BBC Somali's Mohammud Ali says.

Al Shabaab frequently stages attacks in Mogadishu and other cities, and still controls many rural areas in southern Somalia.

The al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab was pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union peacekeeping forces in 2011 but has remained a potent antagonist in Somalia, launching frequent attacks in its bid to overthrow the Western-backed government.

Somalia was plunged into anarchy in the early 1990s following the toppling of military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, and has been struggling to rebuild.

Hasan Ali, chairman of the Somali military court, told reporters in March that Hanafi had admitted to killing one reporter and had been found guilty of killing five others.

"He will be put to death as soon as possible," he said then.

Hanafi, 30, has said he joined al Shabaab in 2008 when he was working as a journalist for a local Somali broadcaster. He was arrested in Kenya last year and then returned to Somalia for trial.

He had been promoted to commander in 2009. The following year, he was seriously injured in fighting.

"Al Shabaab killed many journalists but personally I killed only one," Hanafi said after the sentence was announced. "But I am indifferent if you kill me. You will see if killings will stop even after my death."

Al Shabaab, whose name means "The Youth," seeks to impose its strict version of sharia law in Somalia, where it frequently unleashes attacks targeting security and government targets, as well as hotels and restaurants in the capital.