BBC producer is killed in attack by Somali gunmen

By Meera Selva,Africa Correspondent
Thursday 10 February 2005 01:00

A BBC producer died yesterday after being shot in the back in Mogadishu, the lawless capital city of Somalia.

Kate Peyton, 39, was taken to hospital after gunmen fired at her outside the Sahafi hotel, but she later died of internal bleeding. Witnesses said her bodyguards gave chase but the gunmen managed to drive away. Ms Peyton had arrived in Mogadishu a few hours earlier to produce a series of reports with her colleague Peter Greste, who was not injured in the shooting. She was based in Johannesburg and had covered Africa for 10 years.

Helen Boaden, the head of BBC News, said Ms Peyton would be "greatly missed". She added: "Kate was one of our most experienced and respected foreign affairs producers who had worked all over Africa and all over the world. She will be greatly missed, both professionally and personally."

The corporation's director general, Mark Thompson said: "Kate had worked for the BBC since 1993 and was dedicated to covering news across the African continent. All our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time."

The BBC said it did not know of any reason for the shooting. Gunmen are a common sight in Mogadishu, where all foreigners and wealthy Somalis hire trucks of bodyguards to protect them from militias.

The country has been controlled by rival militia groups since 1991 when warlords ousted the military dictator Mohammed Siad Barre but failed to form a government afterwards. Most international aid agencies have pulled out of Mogadishu because of security concerns, and citizens have become used to regular gun battles and kidnappings on the streets.

Mariam Quwame, a community worker in Mogadishu, said: "When I get on a bus, I keep my head down and take my glasses off so I don't look too educated. All the common people here who don't belong to a powerful tribe have learnt to make themselves invisible."

After prolonged peace talks in Kenya, Somalis managed to form a government last year but the MPs have remained in Kenya, complaining that Mogadishu was dangerous. Succumbing to international pressure, they finally announced yesterday that they would begin to move to Somalia on 21 February.

The African Union had promised to send thousands of troops to help with the relocation, but Ms Peyton's killing may persuade the government that the country is still too lawless. Somali MPs visiting the country to prepare for their return had been staying at the Sahafi hotel, where Ms Peyton was shot.

US troops invaded the country in December 1992 as part of a UN mission known as Operation Restore Hope, but withdrew 15 months later after losing 18 men when militias shot down two Black Hawk helicopters. At least eight foreign journalists have been killed in Somalia since the war began. The worst single day was on 12 July 1993, when a cameraman and three photographers were killed by a mob.

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