Somalia has gained the unfavorable reputation in recent times as being one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work. Men like Hassan Hanafi are the major reason why that statement became true. Formerly a respected journalist in his own right, Hassan Hanafi was convicted in March 2016 for being either partly or directly responsible for the deaths of five of his colleagues.
Mahad Ahmed Climi, Ali Iimaan Sharmaake, Said Tahliil Ahmed, Muktaar Mohammmed Hiraabe and Sheekh Nuur Abkeey are the names of five journalists in Somalia who if they were still alive, would probably have wished never to cross paths with this man.
Hassan Hanafi was born in the central Hiran region of Somalia in the early 1980s, he became a household name to radio listeners in Somalia in 2003 when he joined popular Quran FM station in the capital Mogadishu, he later left and joined a leading Somali website as an online reporter in 2006.
Signs of his affiliation to al-Shabab emerged a few years after that when he became the major source of all breaking news or reactions from the militant group. Through his reports and interviews, they denied losses of members and claimed victory, all of which were broadcast on their propaganda station Radio Andalus.
Hassan Hanafi, Al-Shabab’s Scarred Defender
He ran a secret bureau that would monitor the news and threaten any reporter that portrayed al-Shabab in a bad light, sometimes summoning the offending journalist to meet him in his car. Some of the journalists were killed on the spot and others after wisely refuting his proposition, went on to flee the country. The murders had a similar pattern; victims shot from close range in the streets or at a hotel, while others had explosive devices planted on their cars.
When journalists were killed, Hanafi would often be the first to arrive on the scene and confirm the person’s death. The death of Sheik Noor Mohamed, a senior journalist at Radio Magadishu in 2010, led to a widespread shock and Hassan Hanafi later admitted that he had planned the killing because Mohamed worked for the government.
He was arrested in 2014 by police in Kenya where he had fled and was extradited to Somalia upon request of the government. His subsequent trial attracted significant attention from local journalists, who hoped his sentencing would send a message to other extremists. He was handed a death sentence by the military court in Mogadishu in March and now has been executed by a firing squad in what many would call a fitting end to the life of Hassan Hanafi.