MOGADISHU, Somalia — On one of his recent radio shows, a popular Somali comedian ridiculed commanders of a ruthless Islamist insurgent group that is notorious for forcibly recruiting boys into its ranks and making them fight.
"Hey young boys, you can't move back from the enemy shelling ... instead just stay there and fight," the comedian said, taking the role of an al-Shabab commander speaking by phone to his youthful troops from an oceanside spot, far from the front lines.
Such ribbing may have cost comedian Abdi Jeylani Malaq his life. On Tuesday, the 43-year-old Malaq was shot dead near his home in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, by two young men suspected of belonging to al-Shabab, a group that pledges fealty to al-Qaida.
The targeted killing sparked calls for investigations into his death.
Many in Somalia will miss Malaq's ability to make them laugh as they try to overcome some 20 years of conflict. Mogadishu is enjoying a resurgence in the arts and sports after militants were pushed out of the capital in August 2011.
"He brought smiles to our faces when all ... was dark and gloomy. He was a genius comedian," said Mohamed Deq Abdi, a Mogadishu resident.
Dozens of Somali journalists gathered around Malaq's grave on Thursday.
"This is a heartbreaking and painful," Abdi Muridi Dhere, one of Malaq's radio colleagues, said through his tears at Malaq's grave.
Malaq's death is the latest in a string of what appear to be targeted killings of media workers in Somalia, where journalists must watch their backs for attacks from militants and criminals and fight through judicial inaction and even outright hostility from the government. Seven journalists have been killed in Somalia this year in what appear to be targeted killings.
The human rights group Amnesty International demanded that Somali authorities and the international community take action to re-establish the rule of law in Somalia following the killing of the comedian.
"Amnesty International is shocked not only by the continuing pattern of targeted attacks against media, but also at the inaction of the Somali authorities to protect them and to investigate these attacks seriously," said Bénédicte Goderiaux, Somalia researcher at Amnesty International. "Not a single person has been brought to justice for the killings of journalists in Somalia this year, nor in previous years."
Somalia has been without a fully functioning government since 1991. The country's leaders on Wednesday endorsed a new provisional constitution that many here hope will advance human rights protections.
The top U.N. representative to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, said the new constitution guarantees the right to free expression. He lamented the lack of investigations into media deaths.
"Almost every month we mourn a victim in the Somali media world. This is simply unacceptable," Mahiga said. He called on Somali authorities to investigate this latest attack and bring the perpetrators to justice.