Oct 16, 2006

Somaliland: Islamists Burn Newspaper

A huge number of issues of Somaliland's independent daily 'Haatuf' newspaper were burned in the town of Buroa by extremists linked to the Islamist courts of Mogadishu.

A huge number of issues of Somaliland's independent daily 'Haatuf' newspaper were burned in the town of Buroa by extremists linked to the Islamist courts of Mogadishu in neighbouring Somalia. 'Haatuf' is highly critical on the Somali Islamist movement, terming them "terrorists", and was first to report on their Buroa-based Somaliland link.

An estimated 1,300 issues of 'Haatuf' newspaper were burned in Buroa on Friday morning, at 10:30 "by extremists linked to the terrorist courts of Mogadishu," according to reports in the daily's sister publication 'Somaliland Times'.

The people who publicly burned 'Haatuf' newspapers were said to be the same ones who had sent threatening telephone calls to the headquarters of 'Haatuf' in Hargeisa - the capital of self-proclaimed Somaliland - a few days earlier, in which they said they would attack and burn its offices if the newspaper did not stop criticising the Islamic Courts of Mogadishu.

The leader of the newspaper-burning group was said to be Mubarak Ahmed Diriye, who has been suspected of having ties to al-Shabaab [the Youth] wing of Mogadishu's Islamic Courts Union (ICU). This extremist group's overall boss is Adan Hashi Ayro, who is said to have been trained in Afghanistan and is among the people listed in the US as a terrorist.

During the burning of the newspapers, one of the religious extremists, Bashir Abdillahi Tagane addressed the local media and said, "We had warned the newspaper many times about the things they write but they didn’t listen." Mr Tagane also admitted that he was one of the people who had sent the threatening telephone calls to 'Haatuf', and that the newspaper had printed their phone number, therefore, they had decided to burn the newspaper in protest.

The Mogadishu ICU view 'Haatuf' newspaper as a powerful independent voice that stands in the way of their ongoing efforts to mobilise support from within Somaliland itself, 'Somaliland Times' reports.

In addition to the reasons cited above, Bashir Abdillahi Tagane and Saeed Muse Faraas mentioned that the newspaper had reported that a meeting took place between the traditional elders of an east Buroa clan and clans from Puntland in Las Anod, when in fact this news item was not reported by 'Haatuf', but was reported back in May by 'Codka Shacabka' newspaper which is no longer published.

One of the newspaper burners, Saeed Muse Faras, was also reported to have said after Friday players at a mosque in the Hodan neighbourhood of Buroa, "there is nothing sacred about Somaliland's unity, the only thing that is sacred is the Holy Book," according to 'Somaliland Times'.

On Saturday evening, the 'Somaliland Times' had also contacted the governor Abdi Hussein Dheere of Somaliland's Togdheer region, which also includes Buroa, but he told the newspaper he was not aware of this matter. He would however investigate it.

'Haatuf' newspaper meanwhile does not seem to have become scared about the Islamist provocation in Buroa. In its latest editorial, the independent newspaper appeals to the United States to finally take Somaliland and its efforts to stop terrorism seriously by recognising the self-proclaimed state.

"Because given the current takeover of large swathes of southern Somalia by terrorists and the fading fortunes of the one-city 'government of Somalia' that is holed in Baidoa, Somaliland's position as a front-line state against terrorism and extremism has become much more significant," the Hargeisa newspaper's editorial wrote. Washington now needed to stop taking Somaliland's efforts "for granted," 'Haatuf' warned.