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Somalia far from safe, journalists say

June 24, 2013 at 10:39 AM   |   Comments

MOGADISHU, Somalia, June 24 (UPI) -- The perception that Somalia is on the mend after more than 20 years of war is one of its greatest national security threats, journalists said.

Somalia formed a functioning central government last year for the first time since the 1990s. Al-Shabaab, a terrorist organization aligned with al-Qaida, was pushed out of Mogadishu as the government expanded its control.

Peter Greste, an East African correspondent for al-Jazeera, told the International News Safety Institute the perception of safety was a danger in and of itself.

"It's the appearance of safety that makes it very dangerous," he said in an interview published Monday. "But if you make yourself an easy shot, I think there's a reasonable chance someone will take it."

Al-Shabaab took credit for an attack on a U.N. compound last Wednesday in Mogadishu. At least 14 people were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded.

INSI reported at least 18 local correspondents were killed while on assignment in Somalia, making 2012 the deadliest year ever for journalists working there.

"To drop your guard, and assume because Somalis can go to the local hotels and drive through the city, that foreign journalists can do the same -- I think that's frankly suicidal," Greste said.

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