Popular Somali poet, playwright and songwriter Warsame Shire Awale has been killed in the capital, Mogadishu.

He was shot by two unknown gunmen near his home on Monday evening, according to Somali journalists. He was the 18th media worker to be killed this year in Somalia.

Awale worked at a Mogadishu radio station, writing and acting in radio plays. He also was a veteran poet and wrote songs for local bands.

His work was frequently critical of the militant group, al-Shabaab, who he accused of misleading people in the name of Islam.

The National Union of Somali Journalists said Awale had been receiving threats because of comments he made on air about gunmen targeting civilians. He had played with the police band and some of his songs urged people to join the police force, which is struggling to keep order in the face of violent attacks by the militant group.

A year ago African Union troops forced al-Shabaab members out into the countryside, but they still make frequent forays into Mogadishu.

According to the BBC, Awale was popular with young Somalis who responded to his comic plays urging them to reject violence and join those working for the UN-backed government, including the police.

Colleague Sharmarke Abukar Amin said many journalists are targeted by militants just for their profession. Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for killing more than 10 journalists this year in Somalia.

Somalia has not had a stable government since the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991. Clan-based warlords, Islamist militants and neighbouring countries are all battling for control.

With files from the Associated Press