Gunmen have shot dead a 25-year-old Somali journalist in the northern town of Lasanod, the latest of a string of murders targeting reporters and bringing the toll of those killed this year to 16, his colleagues said.

Ahmed Farah Sakin, who was working with the London-based Universal TV station, was shot several times by unknown assailants late on Tuesday in the disputed town.

"He was heading home in Lasanod when three men armed with hand guns shot him several times. He died instantly and the gunmen escaped," colleague Feysal Jama said on Wednesday.

"It's a shocking murder, and part of the anti-media campaign," Abdullahi Ahmed Nor, a fellow journalist, said on Wednesday. "It was a big loss for us, his friends and family."

Lasanod straddles the border between the self-declared independent state of Somaliland and the semi-autonomous Puntland region. It is controlled by Somaliland authorities, but is a volatile and tense region.

The attack comes a day after gunmen seriously wounded a reporter in Somalia's war-ravaged capital Mogadishu, where reporters have faced repeated attacks.

"We are really shocked because he becomes the first journalist to be killed in Lasanod. Something that has happened in Mogadishu looks like it has shifted here now," added Jama.

'Hide behind their positions'

Local police official Dahir Adan confirmed the killing, and said that while police were investigating the attack, no arrests had been made.

"Everyone knows in Somalia that you can kill a journalist and there will be no repercussions," said Tom Rhodes of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"The other problem is that some of the perpetrators of these murders may very well be those in authority so they can hide behind their positions."

Press rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called 2012 the "deadliest year" on record for Somalia, surpassing 2009 - when nine died.

Several killings are blamed on al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab insurgents, but other murders are also believed to be linked to struggles within the multiple factions in power.

Somalia has been one of the most dangerous places to operate as a journalist this year. A campaign targeting journalists has accelerated and no suspects have been arrested for any of the crimes.

Most of the killings have taken place in the capital, but the latest murder could be a sign that media deaths are spreading.

Somalia is the number two country in the world, behind only Iraq, for unsolved journalist killings in recent years, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Source: Agencies