Maltese manager killed with 'several bullets to head' in Somalia
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Maltese manager killed with 'several bullets to head' in Somalia

Al-Shabaab says the victim had been warned

Paul Anthony Formosa.

Paul Anthony Formosa.

Updated at 9.30pm

A gunman on Monday killed the Maltese manager of the Port of Bosaso, in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland state, a local security official said. The attack was claimed by the Islamist Al-Shabaab group.

"An armed man shot and killed Paul Anthony Formosa who was the construction project manager for DP World, he was killed inside the port and the security forces also shot the killer on the spot," Mohamed Dahir, a local security official, told AFP.

Formosa, 52 from Marsascala, was manager at Bosaso for P&O Ports, a subsidiary of the Dubai-based DP World, where he had worked since August 2017. 

The Foreign Affairs ministry confirmed the incident and said it was following the case closely. The ministry said it would issue additional information should there be significant developments.

The Nationalist Party urged the government to make contact with any other Maltese nationals in Somalia and to insist on a full and thorough investigation.

According to the Dubai government, three other employees were injured in the incident and are receiving medical treatment. In a statement, it said the circumstances of the incident were being investigated.

How the attack unfolded

Media reports in Mogadishu said two attackers were actually involved. One was killed and the other captured by security forces, having been injured while trying to escape. 

One of the assailants had disguised himself as a fisherman before the attack.

He was killed “in the fish market as he was going to Bosaso port this morning. The men armed with pistols hit him (with) several bullets in the head,” Yusuf Mohamed, governor of Puntland’s Bari region told Reuters.We are behind the operation ... we had warned him but he turned deaf ear- Al Shabaab

Formosa, a former Malta Freeport employee, was rushed to hospital where he died of his wounds. 

His family declined to comment when approached by Times of Malta.

Al Shabaab said it had carried out the attack and accused Formosa of being in Somalia illegally. The terrorist group said the attack was "part of broader operations targeting the mercenary companies that loot the Somali resources."

“We are behind the operation ... we had warned him but he turned deaf ear. He was illegally in Somalia,” said spokesman for Al Shabaab’s military operations, Abdiasis Abu Musab.

Why was the port deal controversial?

DP World has a 30-year concession to manage the port. The deal was hugely controversial and sparked protests during which at least one person was killed. Together with a similar deal in the nearby breakaway region of Somaliland, the concession was declared void by the Somali government, which accused the operator of violating the country's sovereignty. 

Mohammed Abdallah, a journalist with the non-governmental Somali Broadcasting Company, told Times of Malta that Formosa had been well-respected in the business community and had had good relations with the local government since his arrival. 

He said the port remained closed and authorities were still investigating the motives behind the attack, including the assailants' links with Al Shabaab and rumours that Formosa had been receiving threats from the local community.

The incident immediately prompted debate in a popular Somali internet forum, with users in Bosaso recalling Formosa as a contentious figure who had clashed with locals and received death threats on several occasions.

Bosaso is a city in the northeastern Bari province of Somalia. Located on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden, the municipality serves as the region's commercial capital and is a major seaport within the autonomous Puntland state.

Malta Freeport tribute

Malta Freeport paid tribute to its former employee.

Malta Freeport Terminals CEO Alex Montebello said: “Paul was a hardworking employee, lively, open-minded and loved by his colleagues. We are extremely shocked to learn of this attack and our thoughts are with his family during this most difficult time.”

Watch: 'He was always looking for the next challenge', recalls a former colleague

The freeport said Mr Formosa was such a capable employee that towards the end of his employment, he had been assigned to commission cranes in other ports that made up the CMA CGM portfolio. 

“Paul had a very good relationship with the freeport and he visited the terminal regularly whenever he came to Malta. He will be missed,” Mr Montebello said. 

Later in the evening, Imam Mohammad Elsadi, on behalf of the Muslim Community in Malta, condemned this criminal attack "against an innocent person, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrators, their ideology or their motives".

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