By BosNewsLife Africa Service
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (BosNewsLife)-- Islamic fighters of the militant al-Shabab group have beheaded a devoted Christian for "leaving Islam", witnesses and other sources said late Saturday, November 17.
Local Christians and Muslims, who were not identified, told reporters that Farhan Haji Mose, 25, was murdered Friday, November 16, in the troubled African nation's coastal city of Barawa.
The militants reportedly accused the young man of "being a spy and leaving Islam".
African media quoted witnesses as saying that the Christian's "body was split into two, then carried away, only to be dumped near the beach."
Mose drew suspicion when he returned to Barawa, in Somalia’s Lower Shebelle Region, in December 2011 after spending time in neighboring Kenya, said local Christians who are gathering in underground churches.
This was the fourth Christian known to have been beheaded since September last year, according to a BosNewsLife count.
There was no immediate response from al-Shabab, but the group has vowed to rid Somalia from Christianity.
Earlier this year, al-Shabab militants killed 26-year-old Zakaria Hussein Omar, a Christian relief worker, near the capital Mogadishu.
The January murder came after the group group beheaded two other Christians in September 2011, including a 17-year-old boy, identified as Guled Jama Muktar, near his home about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from capital Mogadishu.
Militants have also publicly flogged and paraded other Christian converts, according to local Christians.
The latest reported killing came despite claims by Somali and African Union peacekeepers that they have made steady progress ousting al-Shabab militants from key strongholds.
Yet, church leaders have warned that the group remains influential in border areas with Kenya, which supports the battle against al-Shabab.
Reverend Wellington Mutiso, head of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya said this month that the group also "launches border attacks into Kenya with poor youths from Christian backgrounds.
Analysts have also warned of a political battle for control of newly liberated regions in Somalia, which is seen as is posing a challenge for the country's recently established central government.
Even if Somalia's United Nations-backed transitional government will eventually rule the nation, concerns remain as it has "embraced a form of Sharia" or Islamic law, that mandates the death penalty for converts from Islam, according to Christian rights activists.
There are said to be fewer than 31,000 Christians in Somalia as many have fled the volatile country, according to advocacy group Release International and other activists.