Al Qaeda-Linked Group Orders 2 Somali Radio Stations Closed

A powerful Islamist group linked to Al Qaeda on Wednesday ordered two radio stations in southwestern Somalia to stop broadcasts indefinitely.

Al-Shabab delivered letters to Jubba and Warsan Radio stations early Wednesday ordering the shut down without giving any reasons, said Mohamed Adawe, a journalist with Jubba Radio.

Another Jubba Radio journalist, Abdikarin Jakarta, said the letters threatened the stations with unspecified action if they disobeyed the closure orders.

"We do not know of anything that could have lead to the closure," Adawe said.

In recent months al-Shabab asked the stations to stop playing music, which they did, Adawe said. Then al-Shabab complained about programs the stations aired that were generated by Voice of America and the United Nation's Integrated Regional Information Networks that included music, he said.

The stations' managers had convinced al-Shabab they have no control over the programs and the Islamist group allowed them to continue airing them, he said.

Al-Shabab spokesman Sheik Hassan Yaqub Ali declined to comment on the closures.

The Somali Media Women Association condemned the shut down, asking al-Shabab to allow the radio stations to resume broadcasts.

Al-Shabab, which has foreign fighters in its ranks, is seeking to overthrow the fragile U.N.-backed government in the capital, Mogadishu. It controls much of southern Somalia where it imposes a strict form of Islam.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous places for the media to work in. At least five journalists have been gunned down by unknown assailants this year. The country's fledgling police force has little authority to investigate such attacks because the government only controls a few blocks of Mogadishu with the help of around 5,000 African Union peacekeepers.

The Horn of Africa nation has not had an effective central government since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The warlords then turned on each other, plunging Somalia into anarchy and chaos.