Sinister phone calls that leave her sick to the stomach and Somali militants watching her every move

Mail Online | 4/17/2019 | Frances Hardy for the Daily Mail
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The messages are sinister and unnervingly accurate. It is as if an unseen stalker constantly shadows Mary Harper, noting every move she makes — even when she believes she could not possibly be observed — and reporting back to her on the minutiae of her life.

‘You went into a shop on the ground floor of a multi-storey building,’ the now familiar voice on the phone tells her. ‘When you came out, you were holding a tube of Pringles crisps.

Man - Voice - Day - School - Girls

The man, whose voice is soft and quietly assured, goes on to tell her that earlier that day she’d been to a school where the girls wore yellow uniforms.

As Africa Editor for the BBC World Service, Mary, 53, mother to a grown-up son and daughter, has been reporting from Somalia — one of the most dangerous places in the world to work as a journalist — for 25 years.

Voice - Inflections - Staccato

She is familiar with the voice and its inflections; sometimes sharp and staccato, sometimes wheedling; apparently even concerned.

It belongs to a media contact in the violent Islamist insurgent group Al Shabaab who calls her regularly to inform her of its atrocities. And to remind her that it knows precisely where she is and what she is doing.

Somalia - Group - Swathes - Country - Al

In Somalia, where the group controls vast swathes of the country, Al Shabaab is responsible for many thousands of violent deaths. It has attracted recruits from all over the world who are prepared to fight for it.

To the outside world it is known for its most despicable acts of mass violence — the shooting at the upmarket Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in 2013 in which 71 died, the attack on Garissa University College in Kenya in 2015 which killed 147; the devastating truck bombing in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in October 2017, in which up to...
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