Last week in Somalia, Islamic militants linked to the group al-Shabaab, amputated the arms and legs of four young men accused of theft. The punishment is based on a strict interpretation of sharia, Muslim law that guides personal behavior and morals.
The punishments brought back vivid memories for a 31-year-old resident of Mogadishu calling himself Abdi. He preferred not to give his real or complete name out of fear of repercussion. Ten years ago, a local Islamic court found him guilty of theft, and ordered his arm and leg removed as punishment.
"It's a very bad and a very sad feeling," he said in an exclusive
with the VOA Somali Service. "If you lose your hand and foot
it’s understandable. But if you lose them injudiciously...that haunts
me [even today]."
In a graphic account of his story, Abdi said that a man he worked for
driver accused him of looting, stealing and injuring another man, an
he adamantly denied. A clan court in northern Mogadishu then condemned
double amputation, “without sufficient evidence, due process, or
It was a hot September day in 1999, said Abdi, when he was summoned to
field, chained in the hands and the legs. A few hours into a “hasty
Abdi said four men held him to the ground while a masked man cut off
hand and left leg with a machete.
Asked if he was anesthetized to relief the pain, Abdi lamented: “No,
all. They cut my beloved hand and feet forcefully, and in an
With no medical attention on hand, Abdi said he almost bled to death
being rushed to a nearby hospital. He was discharged after only one day
treatment. The untreated injuries he still pain him, he
When Abdi learned about this week’s amputations in Mogadishu, he said
realized that the four young men will “enter a dark chapter of their
The clan court that sentenced Abdi and potentially dozens of others to
amputations no longer exists, a fact not lost to Abdi.
“It pains me so much that I lost my hand and my foot to selective
saddens me immeasurably.”
Punishment and Islamic law
Some Muslim scholars say al-Shabaab’s swift application of the harshest
Sharia law is categorically un-Islamic. Sharif
imam of Darul-Hijra Islamic Center in Minneapolis, said such precipitous sentencing
ignores jurisprudence that stipulates that every possible excuse must
exhausted before one is condemned to amputation.
The high bar set for evidence in such harsh cases, said the imam,
it almost impossible to implement amputation as a punishment.
“The harsh penal codes are essentially designed as a preventative
added, “that’s why it was historically implemented only in
In addition, the imam said the implementing party must be the legal
of the land, and must control the jurisdiction permanently---none of
applies to al-Shabaab.
Meanwhile, Abdi, who like the recently amputated young men was never given access to
an attorney, said life without his hand and foot has been unusually
Asked what advice he would give al-Shabaab, he said people must be
Islamic faith so that they know what they are signing up for, before
parts are cut off.
“Justice must not be applied expeditiously. People have the right to
rules of the game,” he said, grudgingly.