Malaysian Team Not A Target In Somalia

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 – Putera 1Malaysia Club president Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim today dismissed allegations that the recent humanitarian aid mission to Somalia was a target of certain quarters in the war-torn country.

He said the Malaysian team was never a target of the Somali army or rebels as they were escorted at all times by 90 security personnel from among the country’s soldiers and policemen.

The volunteers also did not receive threats, and all the accompanying security personnel were not mercenaries as claimed by certain quarters, he said.

“The shooting of BernamaTV cameraman Noramfaizul Mohd Nor was an unexpected incident. He was hit by a stray bullet from a gun fired by an unidentified individual,” he told reporters after a lunch with media personnel and volunteers involved in the mission, at the Lanai Attap Restaurant in Jalan Kampung Attap here.

Noramfaizul, 39, died in Mogadishu last Friday after he was hit by a stray bullet on his way back to the hotel in an MPV with other Malaysian journalists after covering the distribution of aid by the mission in famine-hit Somalia.

Azeez said the team had always adhered to the instructions of the Somali authorities when they went out of their hotel.

“Once, when we wanted to go out, the Somali security personnel sternly ordered us to stay put and only allowed us out after the police and army said it was really safe,” he said.

There was some fighting among Somalis outside the hotel at the time and it could have jeopardised the team members’ safety if they had not obeyed the order, he added.

On the issue of bullet-proof vests, Azeez said he had brought it up with the Somali authorities who advised that they were not necessary as other foreign volunteers and journalists were not wearing them.

Questioned as to why the media was only invited to Somalia at such short notice, he said it was unavoidable as it was difficult to predict when a natural disaster or famine struck a country.

“We invite all media for every mission but the selection of journalists and cameramen will be made by the chief editors of the individual organisations,” he said.

He also denied claims that the club harassed and pressured media organisations to join all their humanitarian missions, saying it was at the discretion of the chief editors who would decide based on newsworthiness.

Meanwhile, he said, the mission managed to distribute 550 tonnes of food, drinking water and medical supplies to 55,000 families, which were expected to last between 45 and 60 days.

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