Al Shabaab militants in Somalia publicly beheaded four men accused of spying for the country’s Western-backed government, the U. S. and neighbouring Kenya, residents in the south of the Horn of Africa country said.
The al Qaeda-linked group confirmed the executions, which took place on Sunday after the men were found guilty by an al Shabaab court in Jamame district of lower Jubba region, some 70 km (43 miles) north of Kismayu.
“The court ruled on their cases and four of the men were executed publicly in Jamame District according to the Sharia this (Sunday) afternoon,” Mohamed Abu Abdalla, al Shabaab’s governor for the Jubba region, told Reuters on Monday, without elaborating on the method of execution.
“The four men admitted they were spies.”
In areas under its control, al Shabaab has carried out executions, floggings and amputations after summary trials in cases ranging from espionage to theft.
Al Shabaab has been fighting for years to drive out African Union (AU) peacekeepers, topple the central government and impose its own harsh interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law) in country.
Newsverge reports that a 22,000-strong AU force combating the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabab in Somalia will begin pulling out of the troubled Horn of Africa state in 2018.
The AU’s Peace and Security Council said that it planned to withdraw the entire contingent within a two-year period, meaning that by December 2020, the mission will have been fully transferred to the Somali National Army (SNA).
The decision was taken in a meeting at the end of June in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
The AU’s mission in Somalia—known as AMISOM—was established in 2007 with an initial six-month mandate but has rolled on as Al-Shabab’s influence in Somalia has fluctuated.
A precursor of Al-Shabab, known as the Islamic Courts Union, seized control of the Somali capital Mogadishu in 2006 but was later repelled following an Ethiopian-led invasion.
The UN Security Council authorised the extension of AMISOM’s mandate until May 31, 2017.
Al-Shabab has retained control of rural parts of Somalia and held the capital again in 2010, and has also carried out a series of transnational attacks, particularly in Kenya.
Since the start of 2016, the group has ramped up its suicide bombings and armed attacks, perhaps with a view to disrupting limited elections due to take place when the current government’s mandate expires in August.
The group recently killed at least 14 people in an attack on the Naasa Hablood hotel in Mogadishu.
AMISOM has come under increasing strain in recent months after the European Union, the main funder of the mission, decided in January to cut its financial support by 20 per cent.
Soldiers in the mission have also reportedly failed to receive substantial EU allowances for months.
Citing a lack of progress and frustration in failed cooperation with international partners, Uganda, which provides the biggest contingent to AMISOM, with more than 6,000 troops, has said it will pull its soldiers from the mission by December 2017.