NAIROBI – For the first time in years, people living in and around Somalia’s capital will be free from radio propaganda put out by militant group al-Shabab. Radio Andalus, the pro-al-Shabab station which was broadcasting in the outskirts of Mogadishu, went off the air after African Union forces took control of the area Tuesday.
Abdiaziz Abdinur is a Somali freelance journalist based in Mogadishu. He was a frequent listener of pro-al-Shabab Radio Andalus.
For Abdinur, like other journalists who do not have access to the militant group’s leaders or press conferences, listening to Radio Andalus was the only way to get al-Shabab’s side of any story.
Abdinur told VOA that the last time he heard the station broadcast was on Tuesday afternoon, when al-Shabab said it repelled an attack by the AU and Somali national army in the Daynile district, northwest of Mogadishu. “The last reports broadcast by Radio Andalus were the fighting which took place in Daynile district,” he says, “where the government said it defeated al-Shabab. They have also broadcast a recorded interview by Abdikhadir Mumiin, one of al-Shabab’s leaders, who is in Galgala Mountains,” he said.
Radio Andalus was stationed in the town of Elasha-Biyaha, one of the areas targeted in the AU-Somali government offensive.
Elasha-Biyaha hosts hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Somalis who have fled from Mogadishu in recent years, trying to escape daily fighting between pro-government forces and al-Shabab.
Since the operation began, thousands of people have fled back to Mogadishu to escape heavy fighting in the area. On Thursday morning, government forces opened roads leading into the capital and allowed the IDPs to enter camps inside the city.
Abdinur says the closure of Radio Andalus will have an impact on Mogadishu’s population, who heavily depended on the radio to get information about areas that are still under the control of al-Shabab.
“Media-wise, they were good in providing information in areas under their control,” Abdinur says. “People depended on Radio Andalus to provide that information, since other media and journalists have no access in al-Shabab areas,” Abdinur stated.
But Abdinur says the station’s absence “also does give people in Mogadishu some sort of relief, since they won’t be listening to the group’s propaganda, for example, an interview of someone who wants to go and blow himself up.”
Al-Shabab has steadily lost ground in recent months as a multi-national effort to crush the group gains momentum.
However, the group’s ouster from Mogadishu has not restored full peace to the city. On Thursday, four men armed with pistols shot and killed Radio Shabelle political programs producer Ahmed Adow Anshur in the city’s Dharkanley district.