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Al-Shabab Denounces VOA Somali Service Chief

Al-Qaida-linked Somali insurgent group accuses VOA, BBC editors of abandoning Islamic faith

The Somali insurgent group al-Shabab has rebuked the chief of VOA's Somali Service and his counterpart at the BBC.

Speaking at a Mogadishu mosque last Friday, an al-Shabab official labeled VOA Somali Service chief Abdi Yabarow and BBC Somali Service chief Yusuf Garaad Omar as murtadeen, or one who abandons the Islamic faith.

The official apparently did not make a direct call for violence, but al-Shabab loyalists have killed those they deem to have violated Islamic law.

The speaker, Shiekh Fu'ad Mohamed Khalaf Shongole, also accused the two journalists of using propaganda and pro-Western information to mislead Somali Muslims.

In a statement Wednesday, the chief of VOA's Africa division, Gwen Dillard, called the comments "unfortunate and incorrect." She said VOA's mandate is to serve the interest of all Somalis with objective, accurate information.

Al-Shabab, which controls portions of southern and central Somalia, has attempted to limit Somalis' access to VOA and the BBC.

The group recently told local media networks to end contracts with the two agencies. Al-Shabab also shut down FM radio stations that relay BBC programs. VOA is still being heard through a Somali government-run FM station and through shortwave and the Internet.

Al-Shabab is the most prominent of the militant groups trying to overthrow the Somali government and set up a strict Islamic state. The group has proclaimed itself an ally of al-Qaida.

VOA is funded by the U.S. government. The Somali Service broadcasts to Somalia twice each day.