Map of El Bur, Galgudud region, Somalia
El Bur, Galgudud region, Somalia

Somali militant group al-Shabab has executed three of its own members for alleged spying on behalf of Western intelligence agencies, local residents and regional officials said. 

El Bur district commissioner Colonel Nur Hassan Gutale says the three men were executed by a firing squad late Tuesday in the center of the town as dozens of people watched.   

“According to our sources, the men are not from the town. The militants brought them there to execute and they executed them in public late Tuesday,” Gutale told VOA over the phone.   

According to local residents speaking on condition of anonymity, an al-Shabab judge at the scene of the execution said the men had admitted to working for Western intelligence agencies and collaborating with the federal government of Somalia.   

Al-Shabab has been trying to overthrow Somalia's government and turn the country into a strict Islamic state.   

El Bur was once the commercial hub of Central Somalia and now is one of the main strongholds of al-Shabab in the Galgudud region.   

They lost the control of the town late 2014 to Ethiopian troops backing Somali government forces but retook it in April 2017 when the Ethiopians withdrew from the town, forcing its administrators including Colonel Gutale to flee to nearby towns. 

Gutale says the militants have been forcibly recruiting children, killed some of its intellectuals and made it a prison for its own residents. 

Abdiwahid Mo'alim Isaq contributed to this report.