Somalia and the violent campaign of al-Shabab militants

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has confirmed that three Somali gunmen killed a community organizer working with Somali refugees after following him across the Kenyan border. Ibrahim Mohamed was a community organizer who reportedly worked with Somali asylum seekers, encouraging them to remain in Kenya and not return to Somalia. Last week, UNHCR appealed to Kenyan authorities to stop forcibly repatriating Somali refugees from the border town of Mandera, where they sought refuge from recent fighting. The militant Islamic group Al-Shabab is a key suspect in the murder and is also behind ongoing violence in the region. Using al-Qaeda inspired tactics, like suicide bombings,al-Shabab has taken control of much of Somalia over the last year in what it calls its Jihad against the enemies of islam. Fighting between al-Shabab militants and government troops has killed hundreds and displaced thousands. The fundamentalist group has imposed bans on music and watching soccer and ordered men to grow beards, and; Mohammed Yusuf reports from Nairobi.
“One Sunday afternoon at 3, al Shabab militants knocked at our gate. When I opened, they asked if the boys were in the house. They were not there at the time but I told them to come in and look to confirm. They didn’t come in but instead one of them kicked me and I fell to the ground. They then started shooting and the bullets hit my both of my legs.”
Sahra, who prefers not to give her last name, was left on the ground bleeding. She screamed furiously for help, but no one was there. When her mother came to the door, the militants ordered her to lie down. When Sahra remembers this part of the attack, she gets angry and starts crying. Finally, she said, one of the al Shabab militants took sympathy on her and took her to the hospital.
“I stayed five days in the hospital with no one attending to me. My injuries started to rot. After one year and two months there were still no changes. They finally told me they were going to amputate my legs. My relatives had to contribute money for me to get further treatment, and that’s how I ended up in Nairobi.”
Sahra is more fortunate than others. With daily violence in Somalia, the hospitals are full of victims. There are a limited number of skilled surgeons and too many patients to treat. Many die from their injuries.
Human right campaigners are concerned about the increasing level of violence and human right abuses committed by the warring groups. Amy Agnew works with Amnesty International.
“The conflict in Somalia, it’s been devastating the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of people and particularly in the capital Mogadishu, any kind of torture or form of ill treatment or whether it’s carried out by the armed groups or by the government is done in the violation of international human right law.”
For Somalis like Sahra who have escaped the immediate conflict, there is still concern al-Shabab militants will cross the border and seek retaliation.
“The biggest fear I have is that the man who shot me has power over me. He can just say to himself, “kill this girl before she brings problem to you” and I may get killed. He is among the top ranking al Shabab and I cannot say his name.”
Human rights observers confirm Somali refugees could be threatened by militants who cross the border. Again, Agnew with the amnesty international.
“Certainly there have been reports of Al Shabab or other armed groups operating across the border from Somalia and in addition to this report certainly perception exists among Somalis that these armed group al Shabab are operating among them.”
In late October, the UN estimated 60,000 civilians were displaced along the Kenya-Somalia border during a week-long period due to the fighting between militants and pro-government troops. That same week, in central Somalia, al-Shabab militants publicly executed two teen-aged girls accused of spying.
MOHAMMED YUSUF, FSRN, NAIROBI

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