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Four killed in Mogadishu violence as free press strangled
An unidentified Somali man holds the remains of a spent RPG rocket at the alleged scene of the overnight fighting between Somali government forces and insurgents which took place in the south of the Somali capital Mogadishu. Four civilians were Wednesday killed in the Somali capital, where a raging insurgency has paralysed government efforts to restore stability, witnesses said.
MOGADISHU, September 19, 2007 - Four civilians were killed Wednesday in the Somali capital, where a raging insurgency has paralysed government efforts to restore stability, witnesses said.
Meanwhile, global media watchdogs called on the embattled government to halt attacks on independent media in Somalia, a day after security forces opened fire on a radio station.
Two people were killed when insurgents attacked a military army base in Wardigle district, sparking a deadly artillery duel in one of the most volatile areas in southern Mogadishu.
"Two people were killed and three others, including a woman, were wounded," said Adan Mohamed, a resident.
Maryan Ali, one of the wounded civilians, said: "I nearly died as a result of bleeding. No one could get me out of my house after a stray bullet hit my kidney."
Assailants also shot two other civilians in Bakara market.
"They were shot in the head by men armed with pistols, they died instantly," said Abdullahi Haji Dahir.
Mogadishu's independent Shabelle radio station remained off the air a day after security forces opened fire and surrounded its offices, an official told AFP.
The security forces, who over the weekend stormed the station and detained 17 staff, have accused one of Shabelle's journalists of hurling a grenade at a police patrol.
Shabelle has rejected the claims and instead accused the government of seeking to censor its reporting on the violence in Mogadishu.
"We cannot work under these circumstances. Those who opened fire on us are still based near the station and they are not allowing anybody to move around this building," said Shabelle Radio deputy director Jafar Kukay.
"We are still off air until the situation gets changed."
Media watchdogs called on the government to halt operations against news media.
"The terror tactics of government forces are putting the lives of Shabelle Radio journalists at risk," said International Federation of Journalists' director for Africa Gabriel Baglo. "It is shocking intimidation that must be stopped."
The Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign criticised the government, but called on feuding sides in the "conflict to make public declarations of commitment to protect media freedom and the legitimate rights of journalists."
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) weighed in, saying the government should not use the raging violence as a pretext for hostility against the press.
"It is time the Somali government took measures to allow journalists in the capital to play the important role that is their job. The security forces must be given clear orders to recognise their neutrality and guarantee their security."
At least seven journalists have been killed in Somalia this year and media watchdogs have urged all sides to ensure better protection for reporters, several of whom have also been wounded or robbed.
The transitional government has blamed the Islamists for a deadly insurgency that has targeted Ethiopian troops and African Union peacekeepers as well as its own supporters.
Somalia has lacked a central authority since 1991 when clan bickering led to the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, touching of a power struggle that has defied numerous peace endeavors.
Violence and food shortages also prompted the government on Tuesday to warn of an imminent humanitarian crisis in the nation of 10 million.