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Al-Jazeera journalists arrested in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Three Al-Jazeera journalists were arrested by security forces, a few hours before an editor of a daily newspaper in Mogadishu was released, said a Somali media rights activist.

Hamza Mohamed, a journalist with Al-Jazeera English television, and two cameramen were arrested by troops near Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on Tuesday, said Hassan Gesey, director of the media advocacy group SIMHA.

Somali officials told journalists who visited Mohamed in a Mogadishu prison that the Al-Jazeera journalists were arrested upon their return from rebel-held areas where they has interviewed al-Shabab officials, said Gesey.

The National Union of Somali Journalists condemned the latest arrests of journalists which came few hours before the government released Abdi Aden Guled, the editor of Xog-Ogaal, one of the oldest daily newspapers in Mogadishu. Guled was arrested on Sunday and his paper was closed. The Xog-Ogaal remained closed Wednesday but officials handed back equipment seized on Sunday and said the paper could reopen.

Somali officials did not immediately comment on the latest arrests of journalists.

Threats and intimidations against journalists have increased in the past during the election periods in Somalia, which is rated as one of the world’s most dangerous countries for media workers, according to journalists. Journalists are targeted by both Islamic extremists and the government, say rights groups.

Last month, gunmen shot dead Abdiaziz Mohamed Ali Haji, who was on his way home from work as a reporter for Shabelle radio, a radio station in Mogadishu. He was the second journalist killed in Somalia this year.

Three journalists were killed in 2015, including one in a bombing claimed by the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said 59 journalists have been killed in Somalia since 1992, shortly after this Horn of Africa nation plunged into chaos.

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