By BosNewsLife Africa Service
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (BosNewsLife)– A Somali woman, who converted from Islam to Christianity, was nursing her injuries Wednesday, January 11, after she was reportedly paraded before a cheering crowd and publicly flogged as a punishment for embracing a “foreign religion.”
Christians said 28-year-old Sofia Osman from Janale city in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, had been taken into custody by fighters of the Islamic militant group al-Shabab militants in November and that the public mistreatment was meant to mark her release.
Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency investigating cases of persecution, cited witnesses as saying that the young woman received 40 lashes on December 22 “while jeered by spectators”.
“I saw her faint. I thought she had died, but soon she regained consciousness and her family took her away,” an identified witness was quoted as saying.
The whipping was administered in front of “hundreds of spectators” after Osman was released from her month-long custody in an al-Shabab camps, Christians said.
At her family’s home she was seen looking dazed and did not talk to anyone. There was no immediate known comment from al-Shabab, which is known for enforcing a strict brand of Islam in areas under its rule and is believed to have links to the al-Qaida terror group.
MORE CHRISTIANS ATTACKED
Al-Shabab has been linked to the mistreatment and killings of several Christians in recent years. It also blocked most international aid workers from accessing parts of Somalia suffering from drought and famine.
The reported attack against Osman came shortly after Ibrahim, a 23-year-old Somali Christian, was beaten while on his way back home in an undisclosed town in neighboring Kenya on December 5, Christians said.
Locals claimed that he was beaten by “a gang of young Muslim men” because he was an alleged “apostate”, the word used for abandoning Islam. His family said in published remarks that Ibrahim had been raised as a Christian his entire life.
They only used his first name amid security concerns.
Many Somali Christians are known to seek refuge in neighboring Kenya, amid growing tensions at home.
EXTREMISM SEEN SPREADING
While it was unclear whether the men attacking Ibrahim were al-Shabab members, Kenyan authorities said they were aware of the threat posed to Christians and others by the group’s sympathizers within Kenya itself.
In October, a non-Somali Kenyan man was sentenced to life in prison after confessing to carrying out two grenade attacks in Nairobi that killed one person and injured 20 people.
And, a new video message posted to a jihadist website calls on Muslim youths in Kenya to join the Somali militant group in its fight against Kenyan forces in Somalia.
The Kenyan military launched a major operation in Somalia targeting al-Shabab, which Kenya blames for a series of cross-border attacks and kidnappings.
Additionally, Al-Shabab is recruiting Western fighters, including British and American citizens, U.S. and other officials say.
This week, the United States charged a former U.S. Army major for trying to join the militant group. He was detained by Kenyan police last month on his way to the border with Somalia.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991 as international peacekeepers have been unable to secure most of the nation.
Two-decades of fighting between rival warlords and an inability to deal with famine and disease have led to the deaths of up to one million people, according to Western observers and aid groups.