It was a question worth killing over, in the minds of some Somali Islamic extremists. In May, Ahmed Omar Hashi, a reporter for Mogadishu's Radio Shabelle asked Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to explain his country's support for al-Shabab, the hardline Somali Islamic group. Afwerki explained that Eritrea only wanted to enable "Somali nationalists" in their efforts at "ensuring Somali unity, sovereignty and independence."
Just days prior to the interview, which took place in the Eritrean capital of Asmara, al-Shabab had launched a major assault on the Western-backed Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu. The attack came as moderate Islamist Sharif Sheikh Ahmed -- elected as president of the TFG in January and a personal and ideological rival of Al-Shabab leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys -- was beginning to move major elements of the TFG administration to Mogadishu, from their hideouts abroad.
President Afwerki's reply to Hashi was a softball answer to a softball question. But that didn't matter to the Mogadishu-based Islamic extremists, who later called Hashi on his cell phone, accusing him of spreading lies about al-Shabab, and threatening to kill him.