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Canada condemns killing of Canadian journalist in Somalia

[PoliticsWatch updated 11:15 a.m. August  14, 2007]

Former Ottawa resident Ali Iman Sharmake was killed by a remote-controlled landmine in Mogadishu on Saturday. 

OTTAWA -- Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay has "strongly" condemned the weekend killing of a Canadian journalist in Somalia and is calling on the country's transitional government to protect journalists. 

Somali-Canadian journalist Ali Iman Sharmarke, co-founder of Somali radio network HornAfrik Media, was killed by a remote-controlled landmine on the weekend after returning from the burial of his slain colleague.

His colleague, Mahad Ahmed Elmi, who hosted a controversial radio program on HornAfrik, was killed earlier on Saturday morning after he was shot four times in the head at close range as he neared the door of his office. 

Sharmarke is a former Ottawa resident and federal public servant who returned to Somalia in 1999 to found HornAfrik. He is the sixth journalist to be killed in Somalia this year. 

"Canada calls on Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government to hold the perpetrators of these killings to account, and to protect journalists and other media professionals who are exercising their profession," MacKay said in a statement released Monday evening. 

"Canada is deeply concerned about the insecurity and dire humanitarian situation in Somalia."

The Somali capital of Mogadishu has been the scene of much violence as it has been in the midst of an Islamist-led insurgency against the Ethiopian military backed government. 

HornAfrik's coverage had been criticized by both the Islamists and the transitional government. The government had shut down HornAfrik briefly in January and June. 

Two people have been arrested in connection with both deaths but their names are being withheld by Somali authorities. 

The U.S. State Department believes "extremists" were responsible. 

In a statement it described the murders as "an assault on all who are working for peace and freedom of expression in Somalia." 

"These senseless murders highlight the determination of violent extremists to undermine the political process by threatening the media and the voices of those who seek reconciliation in Somalia."

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) issued a statement Monday calling the killings "a great blow to press freedom in Somalia and a great loss to the journalistic community and all who knew them."

"CJFE calls on the government of Somalia to make the safety of journalists its top priority and to ensure that a thorough and independent investigation is carried out into these murders," the organization said. 

HornAfrik was the CJFE's 2002 International Press Freedom Award winner.

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