Mogadishu - Gunmen shot dead a Somali radio reporter in the northern Galkayo region, the latest in a string of attacks on journalists in the war-torn country, colleagues and witnesses said on Monday.

“He was heading home on Sunday evening when gunmen stopped him, before shooting him brutally in the head several times,” said Nuh Muse Birjeb, who worked with Ali Ahmed Abdi at the privately owned Radio Galkayo.

“His lifeless body was taken from the scene a few minutes after the shooting,” Birjeb added. “We don't know why innocent journalists are always targets.”

Three men armed with pistols stopped Abdi, who also contributed to the Somali Online news website, witnesses said.

“The police came later on to investigate the killing but the assailants have escaped after the shooting,” said Yahye Mohamud, a witness.

Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders has described Somalia as the deadliest African nation for journalists.

Galkayo, which straddles the border between Puntland and the self-proclaimed separate region of Galmudug in central Somalia, has seen clashes between rival political or clan groups in recent months.

Somalia has had no effective government since 1991 and in recent years Al-Qaeda-allied Shebab insurgents and other groups have taken an increasing hold on large parts of the country.

Last month gunmen in the anarchic capital Mogadishu shot down Abukar Hassan Kadaf, the head of the Somaliweyn radio station.

At the end of January, the director of another Somali station, Radio Shabele, was killed while returning to his home. - Sapa-AFP