Africa

Profile: Al-Shabab journalist Hassan Hanafi

Hassan Hanafi Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hassan Hanafi helped identify targets for the Somali militants to kill

Hassan Hanafi was a respected reporter and broadcaster in Somalia for many years.

He was executed by firing squad in April 2016, having been sentenced to death for colluding with Islamist militant group al-Shabab in the murder of five fellow journalists between 2007 and 2011.

Hanafi was born in the central Hiran region of Somalia in the early 1980s. When his family moved to Europe in the 1990s, he was the only one who stayed behind.

From 2003, he became a household name to many radio listeners in Somalia after joining popular Quran FM station in the capital Mogadishu. He left in 2006 to become an online reporter for a leading Somali website.

A few years later, signs of his affiliation to al-Shabab emerged as he became the major source of all breaking news or reaction from the militant group. It would deny the loss of its members and claim victory through interviews with him on its propaganda station Radio Andalus.

He ran a secret bureau, monitoring news and threatening any reporter who spoke out against al-Shabab or portrayed the group in a bad light.

He would summon the offending journalists to meet him at his car.

Some were killed on the spot while others wisely declined and went on to flee the country.


Who are al-Shabab?


Nearly all the murders had a similar pattern. The victims were shot from close range in the streets or at a hotel. Others had explosive devices planted on their cars.

Often when a journalist was killed, Hanafi would be among the first to arrive at the scene or to confirm the person's death.

In 2010, the killing of Sheikh Noor Mohamed, a senior journalist at Radio Mogadishu, caused widespread shock.

Hanafi admitted that he planned it, saying Mohamed had been killed because he worked for the government.

In 2011, an al-Shabab court found Hanafi guilty of an unspecified crime, and ordered his limbs to be amputated.

However, the sentence was never carried out because of the service he had provided to the militants over the years.

Many Somalis were baffled by the contradictory nature of Hanafi's statements about his victims. He said he rejoiced in every death because he had eliminated the enemy, but also hinted at regret that someone whom he had known personally was dead.

In 2014, he was arrested by police in neighbouring Kenya, where he had fled, and was then extradited to Somalia.

The death of reporters in Somalia has significantly reduced since his arrest.

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