Somalia closes three Mogadishu broadcasters
(Adds contact group meeting, deaths)
By Guled Mohamed
MOGADISHU, June 6 (Reuters) - The Somali government on Wednesday again shut down three Mogadishu broadcasters, accusing them of supporting terrorism amid a virulent insurgency.
Under orders from Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi's office, Information Minister Madobe Nuunow Mohamed directed security agents to close down TV broadcasters HornAfrik and Shabelle media and the IQK Koranic radio and question their owners.
"HornAfrik, Shabelle and IQK are famous for creating tension, supporting terrorism, violating the freedom of the press and opposing the government," the letter ordering the closures said.
It was not immediately clear whether the closures were the result of particular broadcasts.
In January, the government closed the three broadcasters and the local office of Al Jazeera TV, just a few weeks after it took the city with Ethiopian military help from militant Islamists who wanted to rule Somalia by Islamic law.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, speaking after a meeting of the International Contact Group on Somalia in London, rebuked the government.
"The U.S. government feels that these actions are unacceptable and risk undermining national reconciliation," she told reporters.
The earlier closures led to international condemnation of the interim government, the 14th attempt at bringing order to the anarchy that has reigned in Somalia since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in 1991.
A HornAfrik official said the accusations were unfounded.
"We have closed down our station," Ahmed Abdisalan, a founder member of HornAfrik, told Reuters. "They say we have links with terrorism and that we are confusing people."
In April, HornAfrik accused the government of deliberately targeting its offices with artillery shells that wounded four people during operations to strike insurgents. The government denied it was an intentional attack.
In another incident, government troops arrested a top elder from Mogadishu's dominant Hawiye clan at his house for reasons that were not made public. The government had no comment.
"I can confirm that Haji Abdi Iman, the chairman of the Hawiye council of elders, has been arrested by government troops. We don't know why they arrested him and where they are holding him," Hawiye clan spokesman Ahmed Diriye said.
Frazer also criticised the arrest as being against the spirit of reconciliation.
The Contact Group, which includes mostly European nations, the United States and Tanzania, urged the government in a communique to go ahead with a planned national reconciliation conference June 14.
"We in the contact group are starting to be impatient about the lack of progress. It is with great expectations we look forward to seeing an all-inclusive dialogue," State Secretary of Norway Raymond Johanssen said after the meeting.
But establishing security in Mogadishu for the conference is a tall order -- two suicide bombings targeting the government and its allies have hit the capital since Sunday.
A Somali jihadist group claimed responsibility for one bombing, which killed seven people outside the heavily guarded home of Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi on Sunday. It was the fourth attempt on his life since he took office in late 2004.
The Islamists, who Ethiopia, Somalia and the United States say have ties to al Qaeda, have vowed an Iraq-style insurgency until the interim government and Ethiopia are out of Somalia.
Elders in Barga, where a U.S. warship fired at suspected al Qaeda militants over the weekend, said they had buried five foreigners killed in the bombardment. (Additional reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed from Jowhar and Sophie Walker in London)
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