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8 journalists wounded in Somalia

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • 8 journalists wounded in Mogadishu
  • Victims were covering news conference held by Al Shabaab
  • "Wasteful and cowardly act," says journalists' group

Mogadishu, Somalia (CNN) -- Eight journalists were wounded Tuesday in an attack at a police school in Abdiasis district of northern Mogadishu, the National Union of Somali Journalists said in a news release.

The victims were covering a news conference held by a spokesman for Al Shabaab in the training facility at a base that had been taken over Monday by the al Qaeda-linked group, it said.

Four of the wounded journalists have been identified as: Muse Mohamoud Jisow, Ilyas Ahmed Abukar, Abdinasir Idle, and Abdirisak Elmi Jama, the news release said.

"A big artillery shell hit a nearby building as we were being taken to new areas where Al Shabaab took control in north Mogadishu," journalist Abdirisak Black told CNN.

The blast "rocked everything, including us," showering the journalists with shattered glass, said the television journalist based in Mogadishu.

The shelling continued for at least an hour, said Black, who said he sustained a minor shrapnel wound.

"I always knew that it is too risky to go out and do your job in Mogadishu as a journalist, but today was one of the most dangerous days in my life," he said.

The journalists' union said that one of the victims said that the bombers knew that a news conference was taking place at the time.

Video: Journalists in danger in Somalia

NUSOJ said it "condemned the attack as a wasteful and cowardly act that only targets the harmless journalists who are only armed with pens and cameras and notebooks."

The organization called on all parties in the conflict in Mogadishu to cease hostilities and to desist from taking their conflict to journalists and unarmed civilians.

"Warring sides have made it their habit to bombard or attack places with a congregation of journalists ostensibly to eliminate their enemy's claims of political gains," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ secretary-general.

"But we must remind them of their responsibility to protect journalists and civilians. Once they commit such otherwise avoidable atrocities they then take their war to the people."

Al Shabaab means "the youth," but observers say it is too far-reaching to be just a rabble of youngsters. It controls much of central and southern Somalia and large parts of the capital, Mogadishu.

And after years of pledging allegiance to al Qaeda, Al Shabaab formalized the relationship in February.

Since then, the Somali government says there's been an influx of foreign fighters.

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed leads the weak, U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Ahmed was once a senior, moderate figure in the Union of Islamic Courts -- an alliance that included Al Shabaab and held power in Somalia for six months in 2006 before being overthrown by Ethiopian forces.

The Ethiopians remained until early 2009 when the TFG took tentative control, clinging to a small part of Mogadishu, and protected by African Union (AU) peacekeepers mainly from Uganda and Burundi.

Al Shabaab has reached out to Somalis living in the West, radicalizing young Muslims via the Internet and encouraging them to move back to the country to join the jihad.

Journalist Mohamed Amiin Adow in Mogadishu and CNN's Ben Brumfield contributed to this story.