Somalia anti-terror police under fire for torturing journalists

Thursday February 17 2022
Blindfolded journalists Somalia.

Four blindfolded journalists lie on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs as police walk by in Somalia on February 16, 2022. PHOTO | COURTESY via NATIONAL UNION OF SOMALI JOURNALISTS (NUSOJ)


An elite squad of the Somali Police Force has been criticised after being filmed blindfolding and tying up journalists who were covering an operation against al-Shabaab militants.

The incident in Mogadishu’s Kahda district drew ire from opposition politicians, diplomats and a press lobby, who termed the treatment “barbaric and heinous” torture.

The reporters, working for private outlets, had been tracking the incident in which al-Shabaab raided the area on Tuesday night and had been interviewing locals about it when they came face to face with the Haram’ad (Cheetah) squad, a Turkish-trained counterterrorism police unit, according to a statement by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).

One of the journalists is Aweys Mohamud Jilaow, the director of FIVE TV, an independent station in Mogadishu. The others work for Somali Cable TV and Dalsan TV.

Demand action

Photos appearing on social media showed four journalists forced to lie down on their stomachs, blindfolded, and their hands and legs tied up.


“We condemn this brutal, barbaric and heinous attack on journalists in the line of duty and the inhumane treatment they were subjected to by officers of the uniformed services,” said NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman.

The union demanded the prosecution of the officers.

“This act is not negotiable and we expect immediate action by the Haram’ad (Cheetah) Squad’s superiors or SPF (Somalia Police Force).”

The incident came days after four Shabaab members were convicted for killing freelance journalist Jamal Farah Adan.

Two of the men were sentenced to death while two others will serve sentences of 25 and 15 years, respectively.

The union says the impunity in government has also seen journalists mistreated by state actors.

On Wednesday, various embassies in Somalia condemned the incident too.

“We condemn the recent abuses by members of the Somali Security Forces against journalists in Mogadishu. The freedom of the media and their right to report is enshrined in Somali law,” said the Swedish Embassy in a statement.

“We expect that this case will be investigated by the authorities.”


Following the uproar, the Somali Police Force expressed regret at the incident.

The Spokesman of the Police Force Abdifatah Adan Hassan said the police will investigate the incident.

“We fully apologise to the Somali journalists that were wrongfully treated,” said Hassan.

“The Commander of the Police Force ordered the detention of the police officials and the associated officers involved in the incident and have been detained immediately.

“What occurred at Kahda District is not a source of joy and will not remain unpunished.”