By Stefan J. Bos and Joseph DeCaro, BosNewsLife Correspondents
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (BosNewsLife)–- Hungry minority Christians in Somalia faced another struggle Sunday, September 18, after suspected Islamic militants beheaded a Christian convert and foreign aid workers were banned from reaching a dying population.
Somali Christians and human rights activists confirmed that the body of Juma Nuradin Kamil, a kidnapped Christian who converted from Islam, was found decapitated near the southern town of Hudur on September 2.
He was apparently killed after three suspected members of the Islamic group al-Shabab pushed him into a car, witnesses said.
“Islamic radicals kidnapped a Christian brother and then beheaded him. His decapitated body was discovered” by locals on a street, explained Jonathan Racho, the regional manager for Africa of advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC).
His body was reportedly buried in secret after it lay two days in the open aid as locals feared Islamic reprisals.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility from al-Shabab, but Christians said the beheading bore the hallmarks of the al-Qaida linked group.
Al-Shabab seeks to impose a strict version of seeks to impose a strict version of Sharia, or Islamic law, and made clear it wants to rid Somalia of “apostates”. “Members of the Islamic radical group al-Shabaab have made their intentions very clear that they want to get rid of Christians in Somalia,” Racho said.
Among earlier anti-Christian incidents this year was the reported April 18 murder in Shalambod town of 21-year-old Hassan Adawe Adan, a member of an underground Christian congregation. Two suspected al-Shabab fighters were blamed, Christians said.
In Warbhigly village on the outskirts of Mogadishu, a mother of four was killed for her Christian faith by al-Shabab in January, according to locals and investigators. Asha Mberwa, 36, was reportedly murdered when Islamists slit her throat in front of her fellow villagers.
More than two dozen Christians are known to have been killed in recent years.
In Mogadishu, residents have said they wake up daily with decapitated bodies, ranging from children to the elderly, as al-Shabab has made clear it still wants to show it remains strong after more heavily armed U.N. backed Africa Union forces pushed them back from the capital.
Christian analysts have expressed concerns however that even the United Nations-backed transitional government of President Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed supports a version of Islamic law that mandates the death penalty for all those who leave Islam.
Christians were also among those believed to face starvation Sunday, September 18, after Somalia’s government banned foreign aid workers and journalists from entering areas controlled by al-Shabab after members of a Turkish charity took food to famine victims in an area under the Islamist group.
“We want the starving Somalis in al-Shabab areas to be fed but we do not want the foreign workers to meet al-Shabab,” Mogadishu mayor and governor Mohamud Ahmed Nur was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
A large part of Somalia is experiencing famine, with the United Nations saying 750,000 people are at risk of starvation. Hundreds of Somalis are already dying each day, according to U.N. estimates.
Last month Somali church representatives already said they were aware of 18 Somali Christians having died of starvation, which is believed to be a conservative figure.
“Any Somali that the Islamists suspect to be a Christian, or even a friend of Christians, does not receive any food aid,” said a leader of a local underground church speaking on condition of anonymity.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991, when the former leadership was toppled by clan militias that later turned on each other.
It is increasingly difficult for journalists to report on the situation. This week National Union of Somali journalists condemned a reported statement from a prominent cleric linked to the leadership of al-Shabab, Sheikh Abdulqadir Muumin, who called Somali journalists “unbelievers” who had been “sentenced to death”.
Since 2006, Somalia has faced an insurgency led by al-Shabab, described as one of Africa’s most fearsome militant Islamist groups. It now controls much of southern Somalia and has claimed affiliation with terror group al-Qaida since 2007.
Over 99 percent of Somalia’s nearly 10 million people are Muslims; The tiny Christian minority of perhaps thousands of people comprises many ethnic Bantus as well as humanitarian workers and expatriates, Christian aid groups say.