June 22, 2009 / 3:29 PM / 10 years ago

Somali Islamists order teenagers' hands, legs amputated

* Double amputations ordered by Islamist insurgents

* President calls on world community to rescue Somalia

MOGADISHU, June 22 (Reuters) - Somali’s al Shabaab insurgents sentenced four teenagers on Monday to each have a hand and a leg amputated as punishment for robbery in a show of power by the hardline Islamists in a Mogadishu stronghold.

It would be the first such double amputation carried out by the rebels, who follow strict sharia law in the parts of south Somalia that they control.

Al Shabaab — whose ranks are swelled by foreign jihadists and is seen by Western security services as a proxy for al Qaeda in Somalia — has carried out executions, floggings and single-limb amputations before, mainly in south Kismayu port.

It is battling the government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed for control of Mogadishu, and is also fighting a government-allied moderate Islamist militia in the provinces.

"Today, the Islamic court sentences these four men who carried out robberies to have their opposite hand and leg amputated," said Sheikh Abdul Haq, judge of the sharia court in the al Shabaab-held Suqa Holaha area of the Somali capital.

"They robbed mobile phones and people’s belongings."

The judge did not say when the sentence would be carried out at the hearing, attended by hundreds of residents. Shackled and silent, the teenagers were led away into custody.

Al Shabaab’s strict practices have shocked many Somalis, who are traditionally moderate Muslims, though residents give the insurgents credit for restoring order to regions they control.


In the latest cycle in 18 years of violence in Somalia, a two-and-a-half year Islamist insurgency has killed more than 18,000 civilians, uprooted 1 million people, allowed piracy to flourish offshore, and spread security fears round the region.

Somalia’s government, which controls little more than a few blocks of Mogadishu, declared a state of emergency at the weekend and appealed for foreign intervention, including from Somalia’s neighbours.

But international powers are reluctant to do more than beef up an existing 4,300-man African Union (AU) peacekeeping force. Though lauded by Somalis for setting up a much-needed hospital at their base, the AU has been unable to stem the violence and its patrols have become a target for the insurgents.

A minister, the Mogadishu police chief, and one legislator were all killed last week.

"The Somali government decided to save the country from terrorists invading the country and imposed a state of emergency," Ahmed told reporters at the hilltop presidential palace in Mogadishu on Monday.

"We are asking the world community to rescue Somali people ... We have been trying to solve everything with talks but we realised that they (the rebels) don’t want peace but violence."

Experts say several hundred foreign fighters are in Somalia.

"These are foreign fighters who have fought at least five wars — in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere — who now want to take over Somalia as their own safe haven for their terrorist activities," Somali prime minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, told reporters in Nairobi.

"We are dealing with a threat that can engulf the whole region. We are calling on multilateral institutions and bilateral governments like Kenya to salvage the country."

Security alerts, and rumours among expatriates, of a planned attack in Nairobi have been rife and the Kenyan government has put its security services on alert.

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