By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (BosNewsLife)– Fighters of Somalia’s feared Islamic militant group al-Shabab have killed another Somali Christian as part of an apparent crackdown on “non-Islamic culture,” rights activists said.
In comments monitored by BosNewsLife Monday, May 3, U.S.-based advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) said three al-Shabab gunmen killed Mu’awiye Hilowle Ali in front of his house in the town of Afgoye, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of the capital Mogadishu.
“They executed him by firing from close range and hitting his head and chest. He died on the spot,” ICC said.
The Islamists had previously accused Ali and his family of spreading religious discord, ICC added. Trained in the former Soviet Union, Ali reportedly served in the Somali armed forces before converting to Christianity in 2006.
His body has temporarily been buried in the compound of his residential house after members of al-Shabab refused to allow his burial to be conducted in a public burial place, calling it Muslim territory, ICC said.
Ali is reportedly survived by a wife and ten children. He is among over a dozen Christians known to have been killed by militants within a year, ICC said.
Al-Shabab says it wants to establish an Islamic government based on Sharia law. In March al-Shabab official Sheik Ali Husein warned Christians and other residents that his group wants “to get rid of the barbaric and non-Islamic culture in the country.”
United Nations and European Union officials say the crackdown by militants is among the reasons why at least some 1.4 million people have been displaced within the country.
The Afgoye corridor, where Ali was killed, is home to around 360,000 people, the largest concentration of internally displaced people in the country, according to the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO).
Over 5,000 soldiers from Uganda and Burundi are deployed in Somalia to help the fragile government control at least some parts of the capital, but Somalia is mainly lawless and suffering of anarchy and militant attacks.
ICC called the Somali church the “most visible victim of the al-Shabab “holy-war” in Somalia.
Yet, it quoted at least one unidentified Somali church leader in Mogadishu as saying that the killings of Christians will “never succeed in stopping the church planting movement we see in Somalia today.”
ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Jonathan Racho, told BosNewsLife that “The plight of Christians and other innocent Somalis is increasing by the day as al-Shabab intensifies its jihad attacks.”
Racho warned that the situation in Somalia “will continue to deteriorate unless the international community steps up its effort to contain the influence of al-Shabab.”