MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (BosNewsLife)-- There were fresh fears Saturday, March 2, that Somalia's new government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud would be unable to protect the tiny Christian minority after news emerged that suspected Islamic militants shot dead a Christian in the coastal city of Kismayo.
Ahmed Ali Jimale, a 42-year-old father of four, was reportedly killed February 18 as he stood outside his house in Alanley village, near a police station.
Two masked men, believed to be linked to al-Shabab, killed Jimale, apparently because of his Christian activities.
Besides running a local pharmacy, he gave private lessons in medicine and first aid accompanied by Bible teaching.
Jimale's death came shortly after the United States suggested it would recognize Somalia's new leadership as part of an international effort to strengthen central rule in a nation that has been without an effective government due to conflicts involving Islamic militants and war lords.
President Mohamud has toured Western countries to normalize relations after he was elected last year in the first vote of its kind since warlords toppled military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Yet the killing of the Christian underscored concerns among rights activists that al-Shabab remains a threat to Christians and other minorities.
While African peacekeepers forced them to withdraw from several areas in Somalia, the militants are known for hit-and-run tactics that include targeting Christians as part of their efforts top establish a more strict form of Sharia, or Islamic law in the country.
They also have expanded activities towards neighboring Kenya where last month at least Somali Christian pastors were shot dead in a main market of the eastern city Garissa, local Christians and rights activists told BosNewsLife at the time.
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.
The Somali government says lifting an arms embargo will help it strengthen its poorly-equipped, ill-disciplined military -more a group of rival militias than a cohesive fighting force loyal to a single president.
The U.N. Security Council was to consider lifting an arms embargo on Somalia's government next week for one year to improve its army and combat Islamist fighters.
Yet, Britain and France are concerned about removing the ban in a country already awash with weapons, diplomats said.
Even if Somalia's government woll 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.
It remains unclear however whether the United States and other Western nations seeking change in the troubled nation will be able to convince the government to introduce a policy of more religious freedom.
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