Somali comic received death threats before murder.
Marshale was aware of the dangers but continued to parody Islamist group al-Shabaab, say friends and colleagues.
Abdalle Ahmed in Mogadishu and David Smith in Johannesburg
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 2 August 2012 17.24 BST
Abdi Jeylani Malaq, better known as Marshale, gained huge popularity in Somalia for lampooning al-Shabaab.
A Somali comedian murdered in Mogadishu had received death threats from Islamist militants after dressing up as a woman and a suicide bomber in satirical sketches, friends and colleagues said on Thursday.
Abdi Jeylani Malaq, better known as Marshale, was shot on Tuesday as he returned home from the radio station where he worked in Mogadishu. He was 43 and left behind two wives, one of whom is pregnant, and six children.
Marshale gained huge popularity in Somalia for comedy routines that included lampoons of al-Shabaab, a hardline group linked to al-Qaida that still controls large swaths of the country.
He co-produced and starred in a satirical TV drama Aamineta (Amina), which critiqued al-Shabaab's treatment of women. In it Marshale dressed as a young woman longing to date but complaining that the Islamist group has banned her from speaking to men. Pointing out that it forces young girls to marry its leaders and foreign fighters, Amina decides to flee overseas.
Marshale also made two comedies about al-Shabaab's exploitation of teenage suicide bombers. In one he and another comedian, Abdi Maahi Ajakis, were seen travelling on a bus in Mogadishu, holding small plastic bags full of fake explosives. The passengers on the bus, including old men and women, begin to get off quickly because they fear the blast. The story aimed to show how suicide bombers take multiple innocent lives.
In another drama, Marshale mocked corrupt religious leaders who raise funds from Somalis to build mosques only to later steal the money.
He told the National Union of Somali Journalists that he had received phone calls saying he would be killed if he did not stop parodying al-Shabaab. He fled to neighbouring Somaliland for a short time but decided to return.
Marshale had a wide range of satirical targets. He produced three comedies about corrupt government leaders and warlords. He asked why it was so hard to find a good doctor in Mogadishu and why seemingly anyone can become a dentist. Hailing from the Banaadir region, his distinctive accent was itself a source of humour across the country.
On the last day of his life Marshale presented a small radio drama about Ramadan, suggesting that some people fast by not eating or drinking while others steal, kill or deceive. He played the role of a husband who orders his wife to prepare meals only for her to tell him it is forbidden to prepare a meal for a sane adult man during Ramadan in the daytime. He then divorced the wife for not following his orders.
Then, on his way home, Marshale was reportedly shot several times in the head and chest by two gunmen. A large gathering of relatives, journalists and supporters attended his burial.
Ridwaan Haji Abdiwali, programme editor at London-based Somali station Universal TV which broadcast Marshale's work, said on Thursday: "It was quite a shock. You can see in social media that Somalis are very sad. They lost a great man; he's almost like the Mr Bean of Somalia.
"He was a very simple and cool guy. He was respectful and kind. He was very popular; everyone was happy to see him. He used to speak for the people of Somalia and explain their current problems. He was very committed."
A friend of Marshale, who did not wish to be named, said: "He was one of the best comedians Somalia had. He was very generous and he always laughed. He would say, 'I'm not getting older every time I smile.'"
Marshale was aware of the dangers, the friend added. "When he dressed like a woman, he said he was afraid to do it because everyone was telling him, 'Your life is in danger.' Some people were too scared to be caught listening to him, but in government-controlled areas and Somaliland, he's very famous.
"When he was shot and killed, there was a huge reaction on the phone and on Facebook. Other comedians said they no longer want to continue their work because of the risks."
Marshale kept going because he wanted Somalis to be free, the friend said. "He was fighting with his mouth."
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