A Somali military court has sentenced to death a former journalist who helped Al-Shabab kill five fellow reporters.
Hassan Hanafi assisted the Islamist militant group by indentifying possible targets amongst journalists between 2007 and 2011.
He joined its armed wing after working for Radio Andalus, al-Shabab’s mouthpiece in Somalia.
While he was working for al-Shabab, Hanafi would call up journalists and threaten them with death if they refused to join the militant group, the BBC Somali’s Mohammud Ali says.
When giving his verdict Judge Hassan Ali said the evidence showed that Hanafi “had key roles in the masterminding and execution of the murder of several journalists,” the AFP news agency reports.
Born in the central Hiran region of Somalia in the early 80s, Hanafi rose from being a lowly journalist to become a nightmare for many media practitioners.
He became a household name to many radio listeners in Somalia after 2003 when he joined Quran FM in Mogadishu. In 2006, he became a writer for a leading Somali website.
A few years later, signs of his affiliation to al-Shabab emerged as he became the major source of all breaking news or reaction from the militant group. It would deny the loss of its members and claim victory through interviews with him.
Hanafi would threaten any reporter who opposed al-Shabab or portrayed it in a bad light. Many were forced to flee Somalia after receiving threats from him.
In 2010, the killing of Sheikh Noor Mohamed, a senior journalist at Radio Mogadishu, caused shock. Hanafi admitted that he planned it, saying Mohamed had been killed because he worked for the government.
In 2011, an al-Shabab court found Hanafi guilty of an unspecified crime, and ordered his limbs to be amputated.
However, the sentence was never carried out because of the service he had provided to the militants over the years.
The court in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, ruled that he should be executed by firing squad like several other al-Shabab operatives in recent years.
After the sentence was announced Hanafi said: “I am indifferent if you kill me. You will see if killings will stop even after my death,” the Reuters news agency reports.
He was arrested by police in 2014 in neighbouring Kenya, where he had fled, and was then extradited to Somalia.
The Somali authorities try anyone accused anyone being a member of al-Shabab, which is part of al-Qaeda, in a military court.
Al-Shabab frequently stages attacks in Mogadishu and other cities, and still controls many rural areas in southern Somalia.