MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Three men were executed by firing squad on Sunday after a Somali military court found them guilty of killing civilians in a series of recent attacks in the country blamed on al Shabaab Islamist militants.
The men were hooded and tied to poles with their hands behind their backs in a field in the capital Mogadishu, where a crowd gathered to watch the execution.
"Anyone who kills a person or a militant who kills people and is arrested will also be taken to court and executed," Abdirahman Turyare, the chairman of the military court told reporters at the scene.
He said two of the men had pleaded guilty to charges of killing, while the third was accused of facilitating an attack on July 8 by driving the attackers into the presidential palace.
Al Shabaab could not be reached for comment.
The executions were part of a crackdown in which suspected al Shabaab members have been tried by military courts since 2011.
Somalia's government is struggling to impose order more than two decades after the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre tipped the country into chaos.
Frequent militant attacks show that a surge by African Union peacekeeping troops has not weakened al Shabaab's capacity to wage asymmetric warfare in the capital, where coordination between Somali and foreign intelligence agencies is poor.
Critics say international human rights standards largely prohibit trials of civilians before military courts.
The Somali authorities and judiciary have justified trials of suspected al Shabaab operatives on the grounds that the regular courts are unprotected and vulnerable to attack.
On Sunday, three women were killed in Mogadishu and seven others injured when a remotely detonated bomb exploded in a busy market. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
In recent weeks, al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgents have intensified gun and bomb attacks in Mogadishu. On July 5 its fighters attacked the parliament killing at least five soldiers and police.
(Reporting by Feisal Omar; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Lynne O'Donnell)