Somali Humanitarian Worker Nafisa Osman Salad Murdered in Mogadishu: Somalia Security Vacuum Continues to Threaten Humanitarians, Human Rights Defenders and the General Population

SIHA STATEMENT – 07 May 2014 – Somalia: Nafisa Osman Salad, a humanitarian worker in her early twenties about to begin employment at Digfer Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia was recently murdered by suspected al-Shabaab gunmen less than one kilometer away from her family home in Mogadishu.. The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) calls on the Somali authorities to fully investigate Nafisa’s murder, to ensure the perpetrator/perpetrators of the crime are identified and brought to justice, and to redouble the engagement being made with national and international institutions to address the lack of security and atmosphere of impunity across Somalia. This is a necessity not just for the protection of humanitarians and human rights defenders like Nafisa from targeted killings, but for the general population. State commitment to civilian protection and rule of law is a precondition to the rebuilding of a peaceful Somalia.

Sometime following the Isha prayer on the evening of April 5 2014, four gunmen arrived at Nafisa Osman Salad’s parents’ home, where Nafisa had passed the weekend to care for her ailing father. Gunmen allegedly connected to al-Shabaab forcibly entered the home and dragged Nafisa outside, offering no explanation as to the reasons for their arrival or their destination. After taking Nafisa a short distance from her family home, several families in the area reported hearing the sound of gunshots. Neighbors waited two hours to go investigate the source of the gunshots and, upon investigating, found Nafisa dead with numerous gunshots in her chest. No robbery attempt was made, and the fact that Nafisa was found not at her own residence but that of her parents underscores the premeditated nature of this targeted killing. Those responsible for Nafisa’s murder came specifically for her, knew her whereabouts despite her absence from her personal residence, and came with the express purpose of killing her.

Nafisa graduated from University of Somalia Medical School less than a year ago, had recently started working for a Turkish NGO in Mogadishu on a voluntary basis, and had just received an offer to being full-time employment at the Government of Turkey-supported Digfer Hospital in Mogadishu.

Although the incident has been referred to the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), who subsequently arrested four suspects (three men, one woman), the case remains full of ambiguity. The suspects have claimed to have been sent by their ‘leader’ and that they had already planned to carry out an additional nineteen targeted killings of government workers and NGO employees. Little about the ongoing criminal proceedings, nor details of the investigation, has been communicated to the public or other stakeholders, and there is a general concern that an attempt will be made by the arrested party’s supporters to find a means to circumvent the legal and judicial processes put in place to protect Somalis like Nafisa.

Targeted killings like that which ended Nafisa’s life prematurely offer glaring examples of the continued security vacuum in Mogadishu and across much of Somalia. The inability of the Somali Armed Forces, the AMISOM peacekeeping mission, and other institutional partners supporting the Government of Somali to ward off insecurity, even in zones of primary importance such as Mogadishu, ensures that both the general population as well as humanitarians and human rights defenders remain in perilous positions. Tackling related issues such as high rates of sexual violence and low access to medical care for the majority of Somalis is difficult when minimal security cannot be provided to actors poised to address these issues. Additionally, Nafisa’s murder emphasizes the reality that continued conflict and impunity in Somalia creates a situation where Somali citizens capable of contributing to the improvement of conditions across the country are stifled, forced to depart for other countries, or, in extreme circumstances like Nafisa’s, killed. Nafisa was educated, had a mind towards improving her country, and at a young age had already demonstrated herself to be a committed humanitarian. Yet, no time was afforded her to make her contributions, and all Somalis suffer when those most interested in supporting the development of their country are stopped in their tracks due to violence.

Thus, SIHA is calling not only for a thorough investigation of Nafisa’s murder and the proper follow-through of the judicial process on behalf of Somali authorities, but also for a reevaluation of the security situation across Somalia by key stakeholders (Somali Armed Forces, AMISOM, institutional and bilateral partners) in order to forge sustainable responses to security conditions that continue to pose a threat to humanitarians, human rights defenders, and the population of Somalia at large.

For more information, please contact the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) by e-mail at or visit our website at 

The Strategic initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) is a coalition of over 80 women’s civil society organisations from across the Horn countries inclusive of Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Somaliland, Eritrea and Uganda. The organisation works on women’s access to justice, promoting and protecting women’s human rights, activating women’s political participation and supporting economic empowerment.