Somali Islamist hardliners behead 7 "spies"

Fri Jul 10, 2009 11:03am GMT

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia's hardline Islamist rebels beheaded seven people on Friday for being "Christians" and "spies" in the latest imposition of strict sharia, Islamic law, by the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group, witnesses said.

Al Shabaab, which controls large tracts of south Somalia and parts of the capital Mogadishu, has carried out such executions before, but the beheadings on Friday were believed to be the largest number of killings at one time, Somalis say.

"Al Shabaab told us that they were beheaded for reasons they described as being Christian followers and spies," said one relative, who gave his name only as Aden, after the killings in the south-central town of Baidoa.

The group, which western security services say is a proxy for al Qaeda in Somalia, beheaded three people in the same region last month.

Al Shabaab, which means "Youth" in Arabic, has vowed to rule the majority Muslim nation by a hardline interpretation of Islamic law. The group has dug up Sufi graves, forced women to wear veils, closed down movie halls and cut off limbs for theft.

"My husband was missing up to 20 days. Al Shabaab confirmed to us that he and six others were beheaded. We are waiting for his dead body," said Maryan, the wife of one of the victims.

Somalia's government has been unable to beat back al Shabaab militants who are making guerrilla-style attacks on Somali troops and an African Union (AU) force there.


The government says the insurgency is being led by foreign fighters in al Shabaab's ranks. The United Nations and the AU say hundreds of jihadists have flocked to Somalia to battle the government led by ex-rebel leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.   Continued...

<p>Militants of al Shabaab display their weapons on the outskirts of Mogadishu, December 8, 2008. REUTERS/Feisal Omar</p>
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