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Kenyan named CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2011

  • African Journalist Awards held in Johannesburg
  • 1,407 entries were sent in from 42 nations across Africa
  • Fatuma Noor won Journalist of the Year for her reporting on an Islamic insurgent group

CNN International's longest-running feature program "Inside Africa" will report on the awards on Saturday July 2.

Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) -- The top prize at this year's CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2011 Awards Ceremony was scooped by Fatuma Noor, an investigative journalist from Kenya.

Noor, who works for Kenyan newspaper The Star, won the award for her three-part series on "Al-Shabaab," an Islamic insurgent group in Somalia.

She was selected from among 1,407 entries, which were sent in from 42 nations across Africa.

The awards, which rotate location each year in tribute to their pan-African credentials, were held at a gala ceremony hosted by CNN and MultiChoice at Sandton Convention Center, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Noor was one of 27 finalists at the awards and was also a winner in the category "General News (Print)."

Honoring Africa's journalists

The series which helped her win the top prize followed a group of young Somali men who had grown up in the West and chosen to leave their lives behind to fight for Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Noor first discovered the story when news reached her of a mother in the United States who was trying to find her son, Nuno Ahmed. The mother believed that 18-year-old Ahmed had traveled to Kenya's capital Nairobi, with plans to go to Mogadishu, in Somalia.

Fatuma had heard rumors of men traveling to Somalia to join Al Shabaab and quickly realized Nuno could be one of the young recruits.

Her hunch was right. She got in touch with Ahmed and met him several times. He was with nine other recruits -- from countries including the United States, Canada and Sweden -- the youngest aged 17 and the oldest 24.

"After being with them for two weeks they decided that they trusted me and we became friends and I decided I wanted to do their stories," said Noor. "I told them who I was and everything and they didn't have a problem."

She traveled to Somalia with the recruits, where at one point she feared she would be killed by another group Al Shabaab militants.

This intrepid young journalist has shown great courage and determination in going the extra mile to tell this fascinating story.
--Joel Kibazo, chair of the judging panel
  • Journalism
  • Africa
  • Kenya

Chair of the judging panel, journalist and media consultant Joel Kibazo, explained why the panel picked Fatuma, saying: "This intrepid young journalist has shown great courage and determination in going the extra mile to tell this fascinating story.

"Fatuma Noor's three-part series on the Al-Shabaab provides a detailed and personalized portrait of the young men who leave their comfortable Western lives to join one of the world's most ruthless militant groups in Somalia."

After the awards Fatuma, who studied in Kenya at Moi University, explained how she felt about receiving the award.

"It's definitely going to open doors for me ... but it also comes with a responsibility, with a huge one and I don't think I want to let people down," she said. "I don't want to let CNN, my editors, everyone who believed in me, I don't think I want to let them down."

She added: "My family does not agree with what I do. They still don't approve of it, but at the end of the day they still understand why I do what I do."

Jill Reilly contributed to this report