By BosNewsLife Africa Service with additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (BosNewsLife)– Islamic militants have shot and killed a long-time underground Christian in Somalia after finding Bibles in his possession, BosNewsLife learned Sunday, September 20.
Well-informed Christian news agency Compass Direct News said 69-year-old Omar Khalafe was killed by al-Shabab fighters Tuesday, September 15, at a check-point near the port city of Merca, 70 kilometers (45 miles) from the capital Mogadishu.
Shalafe carried 25 Somali Bibles he hoped to deliver to an underground congregation, Christians said. “By 10:30 a.m. he had arrived at the checkpoint controlled by al Shabab, a rebel group linked with al Qaeda that has taken over large parts of the war-torn country,” said Compass Direct News, which has close contacts with Christians in the region.
The news agency cited a source as saying that “the passengers were ordered to disembark from the bus for inspection.”
“The Islamic militants found 25 Somali Bibles in one of the passengers’ bags; when they asked to whom the Bibles belonged, the passengers responded with a chilled silence. The militants found several photos in the bag and saw that the elderly Khalafe resembled a face in one of them,” source was quoted as saying, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.
“They asked Khalafe if he was the owner of the Bibles; he kept quiet. They shot him to death,” the source said.
Al-Shabab, has campaigned to establish Sharia, or Islamic law, throughout Somalia and to topple the government. Shalafe’s was the latest in a series of incidents against the Christian minority in the lawless nation, BosNewsLife established.
Last month, the group killed 41-year-old Ahmed Matan in the Bulahawa area, near the Somali border with Kenya, for converting from Islam to Christianity, several Christian sources told BosNewsLife earlier.
In July al-Shabab militants beheaded four Christian aid workers for refusing to renounce their faith in Christ.
Fatima Sultan, Ali Ma’ow, Sheik Mohammed Abdi and Maaddey Diil after kidnapping them on July 27 near in Merca, Christian advocacy groups said.
It has become increasingly difficult for international peacekeepers to prevent these attacks.
On Thursday, September 17, at least 21 African Union troops, including the mission’s deputy commander, were reportedly killed in suicide bombings at military headquarters at Mogadishu airport.
Al Shabab said it had carried out the attack “to avenge the death” of one of its leaders.
The rebel Islamic group has also threatened neighboring Djibouti that a similar fate awaits its troops should they be sent to Somalia.
The country has been without an effective central government since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.
Years of fighting between rival warlords and an inability to deal with famine and disease in Somalia are believed to have led to the deaths of up to one million people.