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Islamists stone Somali woman to death for adultery

KISMAYU, Somalia (Reuters) - Somali Islamists have stoned to death a woman accused of adultery, witnesses said, the first such public killing by the militants for about two years.

The 23-year-old woman was placed in a hole up to her neck for the execution late on Monday in front of hundreds of people in a square of the southern port of Kismayu, which the Islamist insurgents captured in August.

Stones were hurled at her head and she was pulled out three times to see if she was dead, witnesses said. When a relative and others surged forward, guards opened fire, killing a child.

“A woman in green veil and black mask was brought in a car as we waited to watch the merciless act of stoning,” one local resident, Abdullahi Aden, told Reuters.

“We were told she submitted herself to be punished, yet we could see her screaming as she was forcefully bound, legs and hands. A relative of hers ran toward her, but the Islamists opened fire and killed a child.”

The European Union’s presidency condemned the stoning.

“The EU ... condemns a particularly vile execution, which the Islamist insurgents who took control of the city deliberately publicized,” it said in a statement.

The Islamists last carried out public executions when they ruled Mogadishu and most of south Somalia for half of 2006. Allied Ethiopian and Somali government forces toppled them at the end of that year, but they have waged an Iraq-style guerrilla campaign since then, gradually taking territory back.

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As when they ruled Mogadishu in 2006, the Islamists now controlling the Kismayu area are again providing much-needed security, but also imposing fundamentalist practices such as banning forms of entertainment seen as anti-Islamic.

Relatives of the woman executed in Kismayu, whom they named as Asha Ibrahim Dhuhulow, were furious.

“The stoning was totally irreligious and illogical,” said her sister, who asked not to be named. “Islam does not execute a woman for adultery unless four witnesses and the man with whom she committed sex are brought forward publicly.”

Islamist leaders at the execution said the woman had broken Islamic law. They promised to punish the guard who had shot the child in the melee around the execution.

“We apologize for killing the child. And we promise we shall bring the one who opened fire before the courts and deal with him accordingly,” one unnamed Islamist leader told the crowd.

In Nairobi, ministers of the east African bloc IGAD gathered ahead of a meeting on Wednesday of heads of state, expected to put pressure on the Somali government to share power with moderate members of the opposition.

Some opposition leaders signed a U.N.-brokered ceasefire agreement with the government in Djibouti on Sunday, although insurgent leaders on the ground have rejected the pact.

The foreign minister of Ethiopia, which has thousands of troops in Somalia defending the government, said the conflict needed a political not a security solution.

“We are hopeful that the agreement concluded in Djibouti the day before yesterday, both on cessation of hostilities and on broadening the base of the institution of governance, will be adhered to by all,” Seyoum Mesfin told the Nairobi meeting.

Underlining the urgency of the situation, a roadside bomb went off on Tuesday in Merka town, south of Mogadishu, targeting officials’ cars and killing four people, witnesses said.

Among the dead was the acting governor of the Lower Shabelle region. The deputy police chief was injured.

(Additional reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed in Mogadishu, Guled Mohamed in Nairobi)

Writing by Abdi Sheikh and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Kevin Liffey