By BosNewsLife Africa Service
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (BosNewsLife)– Somalia’s feared Islamic militant group al-Shabab has warned Christians and other residents that it will crackdown on “non-Islamic culture” across the country, after its fighters reportedly killed another Christian leader and destroyed a tomb of an apparently moderate Muslim cleric.
“We aim to get rid of the barbaric and non-Islamic culture in the country,” said Shebab official Sheik Ali Husein in published remarks monitored by BosNewsLife Wednesday, March 24.
He spoke just days after al-Shabab fighters reportedly shot and killed Madobe Abdi, the leader of an underground church in Mahaday village. His home was burned and destroyed, Christians said.
The incident apparently happened March 15 near the strategic town of Johwar, which al-Shabab captured last year. Jowhar is 90 kilometers south of the Somali capital Mogadishu and al-Shabab and the pro-government Islamic Courts Union have fought battles there. Abdi had escaped an earlier al-Shabab attempt this month to kidnap him, Christians said.
The militants allegedly prohibited his body from being buried, saying it must “be left to dogs”as an example to other Christians, who form a tiny minority in the country.
Several Christians have been killed in recent months and years in Somalia by al-Shabab fighters, including people leading churches or carrying Bibles and women refusing to wear a veil.
Al-Shabab, which is fighting the United Nations backed Transitional Federal Government of President Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed, has been accused by Christians of tryng to rid the Horn of Africa nation of all non-Muslims.
On Tuesday, March 23, al-Shabab made clear however that it would also expand its operations to target moderate Muslims.
It exhumed and took away the remains of a senior Sufi cleric who died 30 years ago, denouncing amoderate version of Islam as “barbaric,” witnesses said.
Reporters said dozens of heavily armed militants destroyed the tomb of Sheik Muhyidin Eli in the northof the capital Mogadishu. “We have carried out today a holy operation to destroy tombs used as worshiping symbol,” Husein was heard saying.
The United States State Department has linked al-Shabab militants to the al-Qaida network.
Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictatorMohamed Siad Barre. The warlords then turned on each other, plunging Somalia into anarchy.
Somalia’s government only controls a few streets in the capital, with the support of African peacekeepers. It has planned an offensive against al-Shabab, but critics say the operation has been postponed asthe underpaid, badly trained government forces lack adequate equipment to tackle the militants.
Many Christians have fled the violence in Somalia, but there may be still at least some 1,000 Christian believers in the country, many of whom worship in underground churches, according to several sources familiar with the situation.