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Al-Shabab Kills 18 in Surge of Executions

FILE - Islamist fighters loyal to Somalia's al-Qaida inspired al-Shabab group perform military drills at a village in Lower Shabelle region, some 25 kilometers outside Mogadishu, Feb. 2011.

Somali militant group al-Shabab has executed 18 people since Wednesday, an unprecedented rate of executions for the group, which is under pressure from U.S. airstrikes.

Militants put to death four people in the southern town of Jamame on Sunday, immediately after the judge in an al-Shabab court declared them guilty.

Firing squads shot and killed two men accused of being Somali government soldiers and a woman accused of being a spy for Kenya. The militants identified the woman as 20-year-old Iqra Abdi Aden.

Afterward, an 18-year-old man, Nur Bakar Jirow, was publicly stoned to death for allegedly raping a 16-year-old girl. The man argued the sex was consensual, but the judge said he deserved the death penalty because he was married at the time.

On Saturday, al-Shabab firing squads killed three men accused of being Somali government soldiers in the town of Kurtunwarey in the Lower Shabelle region. In Buale town of the neighboring Middle Jubba region, the militants executed a man accused of practicing sorcery.

On July 3 and 4, al-Shabab shot and killed 10 men in two separate executions in Hagar and Salagle towns in southern Somalia. The group accused the men of spying for the Somali government, Kenya and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

All of the victims were convicted by militant courts, according to al-Shabab affiliate media sites.

Al-Shabab courts do not allow lawyers to represent the defendants, and the evidence largely relies on alleged confessions. Critics believe that al-Shabab’s militias torture the accused to force the confessions.

The group did not give a reason for the surge in executions, but has been the target of dozens of U.S. airstrikes over the past two and a half years. The airstrikes are often ordered on the basis of ground-level intelligence collected by Somali government sources.

In other violence, at least seven people were killed and 22 others were injured in Mogadishu on Monday in two separate attacks, witnesses say.

The first attack took place near a civilian hospital when Mogadishu police stopped a vehicle loaded with explosives. The driver refused to exit the vehicle, forcing police to open fire. Moments later the vehicle exploded killing two people and injuring 18 others.

Separately, a suspected militant vehicle attempted to pass through a security checkpoint on a crowded road in Mogadishu. Security forces responded killing two militants. A member of the police and two civilians were also killed according to witnesses. Four others were injured in the attack.