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Beheadings mark attacks on Christians

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Islamic militants in Somalia have killed eight Christians this year, along with two sons of a Christian leader, according to reports by Reuters Africa and Compass Direct News.

Nine of the 10 victims were beheaded, according to the reports.

The killings stem from the push by extremist al Shabaab insurgents to topple Somalia’s West-leaning transitional government and to enforce sharia (Islamic) law in areas they control in the African nation’s capital, Mogadishu, and in southern Somalia, according to the reports.

Apart from the 10 killings, neither Reuters nor Compass speculated on the overall scope of mayhem being directed at Somalia’s Christians, who comprise less than 1 percent of the nation’s 9.8 million people.

Compass did state, however, that al Shabaab, buttressed by foreign fighters reportedly with ties to al-Qaida, is monitoring converts from Islam and is intent on “cleansing” Christians “especially [from areas] where Christian workers had provided medical aid” through a former Christian-operated hospital.

Victims of the al Shabaab violence were:

— Mohammed Sheikh Abdiraman, leader of what Compass described as an underground “cell group” of Christians in the town of Mahadday Wayne. Abdiraman, shot to death July 20, had converted to Christianity 15 years ago. A widower, he leaves behind two children, ages 15 and 10, Compass reported.

— Seven Somalis who were beheaded July 10 for being deemed “Christians” and “spies” by al Shabaab, according to Reuters, which quoted a relative of one victim of the attack in the town of Baldoa.

— Two sons of a church leader who were beheaded Feb. 21, according to Compass. Their father, Musa Mohammed Yusuf, 55, formerly was the leader of an underground church in the village of Yonday. He and his wife and a third son are now refugees in Kenya.

Compass also recounted that Islamic extremists raped a 40-year-old mother of 10 children and her 23-year-old pregnant daughter as they were gathering firewood in April 2008 in the Lower Juba region of Somalia. The two women were abducted and held for five days before being left for dead. The mother told Compass that the baby born to her daughter suffers from prenatal trauma.

Last November, militants shot the 28-year-old son of another Christian leader, Salat Mberwa, and left him for dead on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Compass reported. The son, Abdi, told Compass, “There is an urgent need to help Christians in Somalia to get out as soon as possible, before they are wiped out.”

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was quoted by Reuters July 10 as saying that various acts of violence by al Shabaab as well as pro-government forces “might amount to war crimes.”

“Once order has been restored — and one day order will be restored — those responsible for human rights violations and abuses should, and I hope will, be brought to justice,” said Pillay, a South African.

Pillay said al Shabaab insurgents have “carried out extrajudicial executions, planted mines, bombs and other explosive devices in civilian areas and used civilians as human shields.” Both sides, she said, have used torture and fired mortars into civilian populations.

Reuters said al Shabaab, which means “youth” in Arabic, has “forced women to wear veils, closed down movie halls and cut off limbs for theft” under Islamic law imposed in the parts of Somalia it controls.

Al Shabaab’s insurgency during the past two and a half years, Compass noted, “has killed more than 18,000 civilians, uprooted 1 million people, allowed piracy to flourish offshore and spread security fears around the region.”

Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.

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