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Mogadishu Celebrates Al-Shabab Withdrawal But Militants Nearby

Thousands of Somalis rally in the Somali capital Mogadishu, August 23, 2011 at the Konis stadium as part of government organized demonstrations in support of the withdrawal of al- Shabab from Mogadishu.

Thousands of Somalis gathered in Mogadishu Tuesday to celebrate the pullout of al-Shabab militants from the capital, even as the group said it had executed three men nearby.

Witnesses say an al-Shabab firing squad killed the men, including a 16-year-old, in the Deynile neighborhood of northern Mogadishu.

The al-Qaida-linked group says the men were executed for spying for the Somali transitional government and the government of Kenya.

Al-Shabab withdrew from most parts of the capital earlier this month, but its fighters still control some areas, including Deynile.

In central Mogadishu, Somalis rallied at Konis Stadium Tuesday to celebrate the militant group's retreat from the capital.

Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali addressed the rally, praising pro-government forces and African Union troops who helped push back the rebels.

The Islamist group withdrew after a government offensive to retake the city and clear the way for foreign aid destined for drought and famine victims.

Al-Shabab said the retreat was a strategic move and vowed to remain nearby and continue its effort to topple the United Nations-backed government.

Al-Shabab once controlled nearly all of Mogadishu and still controls large swaths of central and southern Somalia.

The group has tightly controlled the delivery of aid to famine victims in its territory, and has banned access for many international aid agencies.