Mogadishu, Somalia –
Serious allegations have been raised today by Gaylan Media concerning yesterday’s attack on Jaalle Siyaad Military Academy. Quoting reliable sources, the media outlet claims that leaders of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) have allocated funds to local media houses to ensure a blackout of the al-Shabaab’s carnage on the Jaalle Siyaad Academy.
A reliable source within the state-owned media told the Somali Digest yesterday that the Deputy Information Minister, Abdirahman Al-Adala, who controls the state media, imposed an information embargo on the Jaalle Siyaad attack. Several senior journalists allegedly strongly opposed the decision and raised concerns about the rationality of censoring the incident.
Indeed, 24 hours after the significant attack that reportedly claimed heavy casualties among the Somali military, the Somali National News Agency (SONNA) has not mentioned the incident on its website. Instead, its front page highlights Somalia’s President’s participation at the United Nations conference in Italy. Instead of reporting on a critical incident affecting Somalia’s well-known 14th October Brigade, the state agency considers it more important to report on Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s trip to Rome.
What happened yesterday?
A suicide bomber from the al-Shabaab militant group detonated his explosive vest at the Jaalle Siyaad Military Academy yesterday morning in Mogadishu, causing heavy casualties among the Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers. The exact number of casualties is unknown, mainly due to a government-imposed information embargo. Various reports inform about at least 25 soldiers killed and 50–80 others injured. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that they killed 73 soldiers and wounded 124. The jihadist group, however, is known for exaggerating its battlefield claims.
It remains unclear how the bomber managed to infiltrate one of the most secure military bases in the capital. Unconfirmed reports suggest that he might have been part of the 14th October Brigade or might have disguised himself as a regular soldier and joined others as they filed into a military base. The soldiers were reportedly being counted in the queue when the explosion went off.
Media blackout on the incident
Serious transparency concerns were raised yesterday shortly after the attack already. The government and relevant authorities remained silent about the incident, refraining from expressing condolences for the loss of dozens of deceased Somali soldiers. This starkly contrasted with the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), which strongly condemned the terrorist attack, extended its deepest condolences to the families of those killed and wished the injured a speedy recovery. Still, the central Somali government kept silent.
A reliable source within the state media confirmed to the Somali Digest that the media blackout stemmed from an order by Deputy Information Minister Abdirahman Al-Adala, who controls the state-owned media. His decision to suppress any reporting on the deadly attack supposedly faced significant opposition from multiple senior journalists.
Did NISA bribe media outlets to keep them silent?
This critical question remains to be answered with confidence. Most likely, it did. While state-owned media were ordered not to report at all, the non-state press has until now reported vaguely on the incident, some noticeably undervaluing the number of casualties.
According to Farah Abdulkadir Mohammed, the founder and producer of Gaylan Media, NISA leaders have allocated funds to enforce a media blackout concerning the heinous attack on Jaalle Siyaad Academy. “Local media representatives report that prominent individuals have orchestrated these efforts, intending to divert public attention away from this incident,” Mr Mohammed tweeted earlier today.
If true, it is another instance of the government misinforming the Somali public and utterly lying about the real state of affairs. This time, however, possibly even bribing non-governmental outlets to disrupt their impartiality. Not only that such methods are counterproductive as they undermine the government’s credibility for fighting al-Shabaab, but they also make the government’s communication no different from the one of the jihadists, who, at the end of the day, also hide their losses and overrate their successes.
This is a developing story. We will give updates on the situation as we learn more.