Somali lawmaker and prominent singer-songwriter Saado Ali Warsame was shot dead Wednesday in the capital Mogadishu in the latest attack by Al-Shabaab insurgents against the government, police and witnesses said.
The shooting, with gunmen spraying her car with bullets before escaping, is the latest in a string of shootings or bombings targeting government officials.
Witnesses said armed men ambushed Warsame’s car as it was travelling in the south of the capital, killing her and her driver.
Warsame was famous for her songs in the 1970s, when she sang about political and social justice in opposition to the hardline rule of then dictator Siad Barre before he was toppled in 1991, an event that triggered the all-out civil war in Somalia that still drags on today.
The singer spent several years in exile in the United States during Somalia’s worst years of fighting.
“As a singer, songwriter, poet and parliamentarian, Warsame exemplified all the best qualities of Somali culture and tradition,” the US State Department said in a statement.
Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab, who threatened earlier this year to kill the country’s MPs “one by one”, claimed responsibility for the attack.
“She was killed because she was an MP - all the lawmakers are sentenced to death until they leave parliament,” Shebab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told AFP. “Whether she was singing or not is not our business.”
But the Shabaab have killed artistes before. Renowned Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor was among those killed in Nairobi when Shabaab gunmen stormed the Westgate mall last September.
He had gone to the popular mall to have breakfast with his son.
The death of Awoonor, 78, who was also an accomplished diplomat and a cultural icon, shocked Ghanaians and many on the continent. He chronicled the country’s journey to stability following the rocky years after independence.
He was in the 1970s imprisoned for his activism, further solidifying his credentials.
In October 2012 unknown gunmen shot popular Somali poet and songwriter Warsame Shire Awale near his home in Mogadishu.
Awale wrote and acted in plats critical of the Shabaab, who he accused of misleading people in the name of Islam. He had received death threats due to his songs that urged people to join the police force.
He also did comic plays telling the youth the youth to reject violence, and had been on the arts scene for over 30 years.
Two months earlier one of the country’s most popular comedians, who was known for his parodies against the militants, was killed after he left a local radio station where he worked as a drama producer and performer.
Abdi Jeylani Marshale had been earlier threatened by the group. He was shot many times in the head and chest by two men armed with pistols, who escaped.
The Shabaab, who have been pushed back from many of their strongholds by an African Union force, frown on artistic performances which they see as being at odds with their strict interpretation of Islamic law. When they were in control of the capital they ordered music off the airwaves and banned live performances.
Since their ouster from fixed positions in the capital last year the battered city has livened up, with many exiled artistes returning to perform.