World

2 arrests reported in killing of Somali-Canadian journalist

Two men have been arrested in Somalia in the killings of two prominent journalists, including a Somali-Canadian, Mogadishu's mayor said Sunday.

Sharmarke left Ottawa to return to violence-torn homeland to help start a free press

Two men have been arrested in Somalia in the killings of two prominent journalists, including a Somali-Canadian, Mogadishu's mayor said Sunday.

Ali Iman Sharmarke, who lived in Ottawa before returning to his homeland in 1999 to help start an independent media, and Mahad Ahmed Elmi, a Somali, operated Horn Afrik Media Company. The radio and TV station has been critical of both the government and Islamic militants in Somalia.

Elmi, 30, was shot to death on his way to work on Saturday. Sharmarke, 50, was killed hours later by a remote-controlled landmine as he drove from Elmi's burial.

On Sunday, Mogadishu Mayor Mohamed Omar Habeeb Dheere said police had two men in custody.

"Government troops last night arrested two men in Yaqshid [north Mogadishu], one of whom has confessed to being involved in both attacks," Dheere told Reuters, but did not give any other information on either suspect.

Sharmarke — whose wife and children still live in Ottawa — gave up a federal government job to return to his native Mogadishu, the CBC's David McGuffin reported on Saturday from Nairobi.

Sharmarke's aim had been to help rebuild Somalia by developing a free press.

"The station was popular for its phone-in shows, but unpopular with the new transitional government," McGuffin said.

Station shut down repeatedly

Horn Afrik had been shut down several times in the past few months over its coverage of violence that has devastated Mogadishu since the transitional government was put into power by the Ethiopian military in January.

In 2002, the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression honoured both Mahad Elmi and Sharmarke for their work in Somalia.

Mohamed Elmi, who works for Horn Afrik and who was a friend of the two men who died, told CBC News in Ottawa on Sunday that he believed the killings were deliberate.

"There is no doubt in my mind that they were targeted," he said.

"Horn Afrik and freedom and expression were all a target. The news we've been covering in Somalia was always under attack."

Both Sharmarke, Mahad Ahmed Elmi and all those working at Horn Afrik knew the risks involved in their work, Mohamed Elmi said.

"We knew when we started that to work in Somalia was not an easy job. All journalists working there have taken the responsibility that they will have to risk their lives to do their jobs," he said.