In Somalia's capital, the radical Islamist al-Shabab militia amputated
a hand and a foot each from four young men accused of stealing guns and
mobile phones. The militia has imposed a harsh brand of Islamic law in
areas of Somalia under its control.
In front of a crowd of hundreds
at an al-Shabab camp in the north of Mogadishu, militiamen cut off the
right hand and left foot of the four suspected thieves. According to
witnesses, those executing the punishment wore hoods and used a
machete, and the suspects, at least some of them thought to be
teenagers, were crying. The men had been convicted earlier in the week
by a court set up by al-Shabab.
An al-Shabab leader, Ali Mohamed Hussein, spoke at the scene of the punishment.
four men had already been sentenced," he said. "Each had his right hand
and left foot cut off. We are implementing sharia law. We sentenced
these men after confirming that they robbed people in Mogadishu."
human rights group Amnesty International condemned the amputations,
saying they amounted to torture. The group had also criticized the lack
of due process given the suspects.
Al-Shabab is on the United
States government's list of terrorist organizations, suspected of
having ties to al-Qaida. As many as 300 foreigners are believed to be
fighting alongside the militia in its effort to wrest control of
Mogadishu from the internationally-backed transitional government of
President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. The group already controls parts
of the capital, and much of the country's south.
opinion can be hard to gauge in areas controlled by al-Shabab, many
observers believe that Somalis welcome the insurgents' ability to
impose order in the famously lawless country, but do not support such
harsh punishment, noting that most Somalis practice a moderate brand of
The transitional government has officially introduced
Sharia law in the country, but the insurgents have rejected the effort
as too weak. Al-Shabab, meanwhile, has imposed a its own brand of
Islamic law in areas it controls, particularly the port city of
Kismayo, where there have been reports of amputations, flogging, and
Since Islamist insurgents launched a renewed offensive
in Mogadishu in early May, nearly 160,000 people have been displaced,
and over 200 have been killed. Both Somalia's internal security
minister and the chief of police for Mogadishu were killed last week.
government has appealed to neighboring countries, including Ethiopia
and Kenya to intervene, but both have so far resisted the appeal.
Ethiopian troops occupied the country from the end of 2006 until this
past January, but withdrew when President Ahmed's faction of the
opposition joined the government and he was selected as president.
Somalia has been without a functioning central government since 1991.