Award-winning Swedish television photojournalist Martin Adler was shot dead today in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, while covering a protest led by the Islamic Courts Union, Reuters and the BBC report. Witnesses, including journalists from The Guardian and Associated Press, said a lone gunman came out of the crowd and shot Adler once, in the back, at very close range. The reporters said Alder died instantly. Another journalist who was walking with him was unhurt. The gunman disappeared into the crowd.
Adler was filming a demonstration organized by the Islamic Courts Union which seized control of Mogadishu on June 5 from warlords backed by the United States. Witnesses said that Adler was standing in front of the approaching crowd, and was not in the heavily guarded area where many other journalists and Islamic courts leaders were standing.
An Associated Press photograph by an unidentifed stringer shows Adler face down on the ground just moments after he was shot. He's wearing a white shirt and white baseball cap, and has fallen atop his camera. The shirt is blown open beneath his right shoulder, and the shirt and wound look like the damage typically done by a nearly point-blank gunshot. A Reuters photo taken just before Alder was shot, from in front of the photograher, shows him holding his camera high over his head in outstretched arms, the lens pointed toward the oncoming demonstration.
Later photographs show his body being carried away by Somali onlookers. Agence France-Presse reports that his body was taken to a hospital.
An editor at Aftonbladet told AFP that Adler was in Somalia for the newspaper, that he had been there for about one week, and that he was going to file reports to them today from the rally.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says the photojournalist was freelancing for several newspapers, including the Swedish daily Aftonbladet, and that Adler was also a long-time contributor to Britain’s Channel 4 News.
“This senseless killing shows that Somalia is still one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We mourn the loss of our colleague Martin Adler, a courageous journalist who received international acclaim for his investigative reporting. Somalia’s transitional government and the Islamic courts which control Mogadishu must now make it a priority to find and prosecute his killer.”
The Associated Press says that anti-foreigner sentiment has been stoked by reports that widely despised warlords who had opposed the Islamic group were financed by the CIA to capture suspected al-Qaeda members in Somalia, and that International journalists have recently been stoned or heckled while reporting on demonstrations.
Adler was born in Stockholm, and he leaves behind a wife and two daughters who live in Sweden.
In a statement, Britain’s Independent Television News company called Adler “a long term friend of ITN and Channel 4 News” who had “contributed outstanding journalism and film making.” Adler won the 2001 Amnesty International Media Award, a Silver Prize for investigative journalism at the 2001 New York Film Festival, and the 2004 London-based Rory Peck Award for Hard News for a report which exposed abuses by U.S. troops in Iraq. He had worked in more than two dozen war zones, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Rwanda, Congo, and Sierra Leone.
Last year, Kate Peyton of the BBC, one of several foreign reporters who entered the country to cover the peace process in early 2005, was shot dead in Mogadishu in January. Six months later, local radio journalist Duniya Muhyadin Nur was shot dead while covering a protest near the capital.
At least 13 other journalists have been killed in Somalia because of their work since the fall of former dictator Siad Barre in 1991, according to CPJ research. The country has had no effective central government since then.