Mogadishu – A prominent rights activist was shot dead in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Wednesday, with security officials suggesting she had been hit by a stray bullet.
Almaas Elman Ali, who came from a leading family of peace campaigners, was travelling by car inside the heavily fortified airport compound when she was hit.
“She was riding in a car along a road inside the airport,” said Mohamed Omar, a Somali security official. “A stray bullet hit her, and she died within a few minutes.”
Gunfire is a regular occurence in Mogadishu, although the levels of violence are far lower than in past years of heavy conflict.
“There was not any gunfire in the airport, or in nearby areas before the incident occurred,” Omar said.
The sprawling airport complex includes embassies and the headquarters of African Union soldiers.
Almaas Elman Ali, who had dual Somali and Canadian citizen, is believed to have been attending a meeting for the Elman Peace centre, founded in 1990 by her father, Elman Ali Ahmed.
Ahmed’s wife and daughters – including Almaas – fled to Canada as the civil war in the country worsened. He stayed in Somalia and in 1996 was killed in Mogadishu by unknown gunmen.
The family rest of the family had returned to Somalia in recent years to help run the peace centre working to end the violence.
Their work includes a programme called “Drop the Gun, Pick Up the Pen” that encourages child soldiers conscripted by militia gunmen to return to peace.
Almaas’ sister, youth activist Ilwad Elmam, was among those shortlisted to win the Nobel Peace Prize this year by The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).
Although Somalia is slowly rebuilding after years of devastating conflict, it suffers regular bombing and assaults claimed by the jihadist insurgents, Al-Shabaab.
They were driven out of Mogadishu by government forces backed by 20,000 African Union peacekeepers in 2011.
But they still carry out attacks including suicide bombings against government and international targets.