Somalia’s al-Shabab fighters have on Thursday executed a man whom they accused of practicing witchcraft, a sign of the insurgents’ control of southern swathes of the country, even as authorities step up efforts to combat them.
Al Shabaab’s grip on the Horn of Africa nation has been weakening since it was pushed out of the capital by African Union peacekeepers in 2011, but the government and the U.S. military are beefing up an offensive against it.
An al Shabab judge, who read the court’s verdict at the public square, said the man was found guilty of practicing witchcraft and going against the teachings of Islam.
According to a statement posted on its affiliated media online sites, the man who is identified as Abukar Haji Omar was executed at a public square in the outskirts of southern town of Qoryoley in Lower Shabelle province immediately after the judge in the al-Shabab court declared him guilty.
Al-Shabab courts do not allow lawyers to represent the defendants, and the evidence largely relies on alleged confessions. Critics believe that al-Shabab’s militias torture the accused to force the confessions
The group did not give a reason for the surge in executions, but has been the target of dozens of U.S. airstrikes over the past two and a half years. The airstrikes are often ordered on the basis of ground-level intelligence collected by Somali government sources.
Al Shabab group often execute, amputate, behead, and flog people it accuses of espionage, rape, theft, among other crimes. But these victims do not get fair legal representations.
For over 10 years, al Shabab, which has links with al Qaeda-linked, has been fighting to topple the government of Somalia.
It has been driven out of major urban areas including Mogadishu, but it is still capable of carrying out high-profile attacks within and outside Somalia.