Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pastor in Kenya Fears His Life Is in Imminent Danger from Islamic Extremists

Convert of Somali descent says Al Shabaab has put bounty on his head.


Somali Al Shabaab rebels have offered a reward to anyone who kills the Rev. Mahad H. Birik, and after a video of him describing his conversion from Islam seeped into major Somali broadcast, Web and print media two months ago, the pastor of an undisclosed church on the outskirts of Nairobi said longstanding threats on his life became concrete this month.
“My family is now living in a sleepless state,” said the father of two children – one age 15 from a wife who was taken from him when he left Islam, and a 2-year-old from remarriage. “My life and that of my family is in imminent danger. It is very serious and real, as Muslim extremists are strategizing on having my head.”
On Sunday (Dec. 14) Somali men unknown to him followed Birik and his wife to their church. A security guard stopped the men, asking them who they were and what they wanted, and they left. Birik said police identified their car as registered to Kamau Kamotho, whom officers have long sought on suspicion of being a hit-man for hire.
After several masked men hovered near his house one night early this year, he relocated his family to another area of Nairobi. On Dec. 4, masked men showed up at about 7:30 a.m. at their new residence, located in a compound where around two dozen other families live. They arrived in a car with tinted windows, he said.
“One of them came out of the car and started asking whether a Somali pastor was still inside the compound,” Birik said. “The watchman became suspicion as it was very early in the morning. He was able to see through the lowered window, where the driver of the car came out from, and saw two masked men, and then he raised an alarm by whistling.”
A second person got out of the car, and the watchman retreated backwards, he said; residents rushed to the scene, and the suspicious figures got back into the car and drove away.
Al Shabaab, an Islamic extremist insurgent group in Somalia, announced through Kenyan and Somali media and over mosque loudspeakers in 2009 that they would pay a large sum of money for Birik’s head, he said.
“The Al Shabaab have a sophisticated network,” said Birik, who also works for a relief agency. “I do not know when they will hit me; I am sure I can no longer hide myself. I therefore want the Christian world as well as human rights groups to know that my life is in danger, and I need urgent rescue.”
Video of Birik’s testimony had circulated on the Web prior to the latest version, which was recorded by a U.S. church volunteer this year and posted on the church website; the church had partnered in Nairobi with a foreign-based ministry to help produce audio recordings of the Bible in the Somali language. Telling the church volunteer his testimony was already available online, Birik had granted the church permission to disseminate the recording of his conversion story, a source said.
Birik said many in the underground network of Somali Christians in Kenya have sent him text messages saying his life is in danger and to be careful of his movements; “You are not safe at all,” one read.
On Dec. 8, a vehicle hit him and sent him caroming into a ditch, but he sustained only minor injuries. Birik said police later located the car, but the owner said it had been on a road test and the driver had not deliberately hit him.
At the end of November, Birik reported to police that Al Shabaab planned to execute him.
“I now have to put on a cap to hide my identity,” Birik said.
On Dec. 7, two Somali women that Birik believes were connected to Al Shabaab began following him. He told Morning Star News that one of them said in the Somali language, “This man is now an enemy of Islam. He used to be an imam. We should finish him off.”
Birik responded, “I am a Somali man; I have heard what you have said. You cannot harm me. Go back,” and immediately they began to run away, one of them falling down and another slipping into mud, he said. Coincidentally, police in the predominantly Somali area of Eastleigh in Nairobi on Dec. 12 arrested eight Somali women on suspicion of being agents of Al Shabaab.
On Dec.1, after two of Birik’s Somali relatives argued with him over his conversion to Christianity, one of them said, “I wish I could get an opportunity to kill this infidel – just hit him right in his face,” and the ensuing fight between the relative and the pastor resulted in police seeking to arrest them. Officers granted their request to settle the matter outside court, but later the case was registered at Administrative Police Camp at Dagoreti Corner.
The other relative, more sympathetic to Birik, told him that he needs to be careful and to watch his movements, Birik said.
Birik is not a stranger to persecution. Raised in northern Kenya to parents from Somalia, the neighboring country where leaving Islam is punishable by death, upon conversion his family disowned him and took all his property. They also took his wife from him and married her off to another man; the divorce became final in 2004.
“This was a big loss to me, and it took several years for me to recover,” he said.
In 2008 Somali Muslims beat him outside Nairobi for leaving Islam, breaking both his hands, he said, and in 2009 another Islamist gang confronted him and broke his right hand.
“They hit me with blunt objects, with several kicks and blows, and my hand got broken,” he said. “Now it is difficult to use it in doing heavy tasks.”
Birik said he is also in danger of losing his job with a relief organization.
“My employer is considering dismissing me, because my profile, which has been aired in all the Somali televisions and daily papers, will put their operation and lives of visiting staff in danger,” he said. “This organization has had bad experiences in the past, and it will not take chances once again.”
Since the Al Shabaab offer of a bounty to kill him, he has not been able to return to his home town of Wajir in northern Kenya, Birik said. He said the denomination that ordained him has not been responsive, and that he does not have the estimated $1,500 needed to relocate his family to another part of Kenya.
“I am sure if I am not rescued soon, then they will get rid of me,” he said. “It only a matter of when.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Stay or Leave, Somali Christians in Kenyan Refugee Camps Face Danger

Stay or Leave, Somali Christians in Kenyan Refugee Camps Face Danger

Islamic extremist threat reigns whether they remain or are repatriated.
By Our East Africa Correspondent
NAIROBIKenya, August 1, 2014 (Morning Star News) – The Somali convert from Islam and his wife were holding each other under their bed in a Kenyan refugee camp as gunmen outside their door threatened to shoot.
Abukar Mohammed (surname withheld for security reasons), 36, suspected members of Somalia’s Islamic extremist Al Shabaab insurgency who lived in the camp near Dadaab were the ones pounding on the door and demanding he open it the night of April 27. The door was made of wooden poles, and the assailants could see through the gaps between them.
“Come out the door or we will kill you,” one of the assailants said.
“Who are you?” said Abukar, who became a Christian 19 years ago in one of the Dadaab refugee camps some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Somali border. “We are not opening the door.”
The attackers called him the Arabic and Somali words for infidel, “Kafir,” and “Gaal” respectively, then said, “We need your head.”
 “The killers started shooting at us through the spaces between the poles and hit us on the legs,” Abukar told Morning Star News. “As were lying in great pain, I heard the attackers saying, ‘We have killed the infidels’ as they shot into the air while leaving.”
The couple was later found inside their home in a pool of blood. Two days later they were flown to Nairobi’s Kenyatta National Hospital, where they were treated for two months. They continued treatment at a rehabilitation center on the outskirts of Nairobi, but they are still nursing their injuries, and Abukar’s wife, still in great pain, must use a walking stick.
Abukar, who took on the nickname Ali after his conversion to Christ became known in the predominantly Somali Muslim refugee camp, recalled that the assailants spoke to neighbors outside his home before the assault, asking, “Is this the house of Ali, the Gaal?”
The Muslim operators of the camp could hardly be relied upon for security; indeed, Abukar said Kenyan security personnel assisted the gunmen in the assault.
The experience of this Christian couple – Abukar's wife also a Somali convert from Islam – is just one example of dangers facing Christians in the Dadaab refugee camps, where an office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is based. Kenyan officials are increasingly trying to repatriate refugees to Somalia, where the threat of Al Shabaab violence awaits them. The Islamic extremist insurgents have vowed to rid Somalia of its underground Christians.
Abukar is one of many refugees who have spent a large part of their lives in the camps – a generation has known no other existence – and in that time concealing his faith became more difficult. He gained popularity as a distributor of food, some of it from a Christian aid organization, to underground Christian families for six months; he associated with an Ethiopian Christian; and he attended a fellowship run by Christian police in the camp.
He had come to Christ in the camp in 1995 under the influence of Canadian Baptist church workers; his wife (name withheld) converted to Christ in the camp in 2006. Childless, she suffered her third miscarriage while being treated for her wounds from the shooting, she said.
The two said they are in desperate need of help.
“We need medicine and food,” Abukar said. “We thank some few Kenyan Christians who once in a while come and see us.”
Another Somali convert from Islam, 48-year-old Abdikadir (surname withheld), saw Muslim relatives and other Somalis burn his home down in one of the undisclosed Dadaab refugee camps in April. He told Morning Star News that they took away his wife and four children in the course of destroying his home.
Like Abukar and his wife, Abdikadir is also a UNHCR-designated refugee; he managed to escape the attack in the camp and is now in hiding elsewhere. He came to Christ while still living in Somalia, and in Kenya his boldness in proclaiming Christ landed him in a Khadi (Islamic) civil court in Garissa under a charge of leaving Islam on March 22, 2013, he said.
“I could not deny my faith in Christ,” he said. “I stood firm with my conviction that Jesus is my Lord and Savior,” he said.
He escaped retribution, but he and other Somali underground Christians in Kenya live in constant fear of Kenya’s repatriation efforts.
“We appeal to the churches in Kenya to protect us and speak of our situation, lest we are taken back to Somalia only to be killed as we try to provide for our basic needs,” he said. “We also appeal to international community to give us asylum abroad.”

Somali Widow's Life in Danger in Kenya after Reporting Assault to Police

Somali Widow's Life in Danger in Kenya after Reporting Assault to Police
Muslim elders warn Christian mother to drop case.
By Our East Africa Correspondent
NAIROBI, Kenya, August 7, 2014 (Morning Star News) – Islamic extremists from Somalia, upset that a Christian widow would not send her children to a Muslim school, attacked her and seek to kill her because she reported the assault to police, community members said.
Hadiya Ali (surname withheld), 51, said she has had to move house before in the face of violence from her Somali countrymen; two of her adult sons were beaten unconscious as “apostates” in separate assaults by Somali Muslims in Nairobi in 2011. Now she listens to her children implore her to move the family again.
“Please Mum, get us a house elsewhere lest we are killed here,” her 16-year-old daughter tells her.
Having fled Somalia more than 10 years ago after the death of her husband, Hadiya still has six school-age children – two from remarriage, though her second husband recanted his Christian faith amid a wave of persecution and returned to Somalia in 2010 – and they live in fear. No fewer than 10 Islamic elders visited her to warn that she was risking her life by filing a case on the attack. After the assailants were released on bail, a neighbor pleaded with her to tell police that her life was in danger.
Hadiya returned home from a market in the Bulbul area north of Nairobi on the evening of June 28 to find eight Somali Muslims outside her house. One of them, she noticed, was a former neighbor from an area she had left three months before because Muslim neighbors had been questioning her children about her whereabouts when she left for church. Unlike many Somali immigrants who meet in secret fellowships because they are considered Muslim for having been born in Somalia and therefore are now “apostates,” Hadiya openly attends a large undisclosed church in Nairobi.
After she entered her house, her 16-year-old daughter (name withheld) told her that the group outside – three men and five women – appeared to be armed. Hadiya immediately locked the doors; during the recent Islamic ceremonial month of Ramadan, Muslims in the area had pressured her to take her children to a madrassa (Islamic school).
The neighbor from her previous home where she had lived for three years, identified only as Mohammed, and a sheikh (Islamic teacher) had offered to sponsor two of her children, ages 10 and 6, so that they could attend the Islamic school, Hadiya told Morning Star News. They pressured her to buy the children clothes that met the Islamic dress code, she said.
Two days later, the Islamic teacher arrived for a follow-up visit with Hadiya. She refused to comply with the sheikh’s demand, and she said he angrily accused her of “ruining the children.” Hadiya told him that she had not requested any sponsorship for her children to attend the Islamic school.
Shortly after she entered her house the evening of June 28, the group knocked on the door. Hadiya told them it was late in the evening and that they meet in the morning. The group grew furious, broke through the door and forced their way inside, she said.
 “I hid myself under the bed as two women got into my bedroom and pulled me out, dragging me on the floor to the sitting room,” Hadiya said. “Mohammed strangled me, while one lady knifed me on my left leg near the foot, while another [Mohammed] hit me in my stomach. My daughter tried to rescue me but was overpowered and injured her hand during the struggle.”
Hadiya fell down unconscious and bleeding near the door, her daughter said, adding, “I screamed for help, and neighbors arrived to rescue us.”
Once outside, the daughter said, the assailants began shouting, saying, “You are ruining the children, making them kafir [infidel]. We will burn this kafir. The sign of the cross has been stamped on her buttocks. This kafir has been converting our Muslim women to Christianity. You have been following this bad religion for many years, but still you are very poor.”
The assailants lingered outside the house for two hours, discussing how to kill Hadiya and her children, Hadiya said. Her daughter called a family friend, a lecturer at Africa International University (name undisclosed for security reasons) to help them leave the place. At 1 a.m., the friend arrived.
She took Hadiya to a nearby medical clinic, and later into her home. The following day Hadiya recorded a statement at Bulbul police station. The police started looking for the attackers and arrested three suspects: Mohammed and two others identified only as Fatima and Halima. The others had absconded.
The area chief and Muslim elders were said to have provided bail of US$200 for the release of the three attackers.
The friend told Morning Star News she provided accommodation for Hadiya and her family for a week, taking care of their basic needs for shelter, food and medication. When Hadiya returned home, she learned that the assailants had been released. She went back to the police station to complain, she said.
When she returned home from the station, 10 Muslim elders arrived. They warned her that she should drop the case or she would be risking her life, she said.
“Since then, things have been very difficult for me,” Hadiya said. “I feel a lot of pain in my stomach. The doctors are suspecting that my spleen might have been affected. I sometimes faint. A scan is needed.”
A neighbor (name undisclosed for security reasons) recently visited the family and informed them that hard-line Muslims were planning to kill her.
“Muslims will kill you, please go to the police station and report that your life is in danger,” the neighbor told Hadiya.
Hadiya appeared traumatized as she spoke of her ordeal.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sudan 'apostasy' woman Meriam Yahia Ibrahim meets Pope

Mrs Ibrahim and her family meet Pope Francis at his Vatican residence

A Sudanese woman who fled to Italy after being spared a death sentence for renouncing Islam has met the Pope.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag flew to Rome with her family after more than a month in the US embassy in Khartoum.

There was global condemnation when she was sentenced to hang for apostasy by a Sudanese court.

Mrs Ibrahim's father is Muslim so according to Sudan's version of Islamic law she is also Muslim and cannot convert.

She was raised by her Christian mother and says she has never been Muslim.
Welcoming her at the airport, Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said: "Today is a day of celebration."
Mrs Ibrahim met Pope Francis at his Santa Marta residence at the Vatican soon after her arrival.

"The Pope thanked her for her witness to faith," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi was quoted as saying.

The meeting, which lasted around half an hour, was intended to show "closeness and solidarity for all those who suffer for their faith," he added. 'Mission accomplished'

The BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome says there was no prior indication of Italy's involvement in the case.

Lapo Pistelli, Italy's vice-minister for foreign affairs, accompanied her on the flight from Khartoum and posted a photo of himself with Mrs Ibrahim and her children on his Facebook account as they were about to land in Rome.

"Mission accomplished," he wrote.

A senior Sudanese official told Reuters news agency that the government in Khartoum had approved her departure in advance.

Mrs Ibrahim's lawyer Mohamed Mostafa Nour told BBC Focus on Africa that she travelled on a Sudanese passport she received at the last minute.

"She is unhappy to leave Sudan. She loves Sudan very much. It's the country she was born and grew up in," he said.
Daniel Wani in Rome airport
Mrs Ibrahim travelled with her husband Daniel Wani

"But her life is in danger so she feels she has to leave. Just two days ago a group called Hamza made a statement that they would kill her and everyone who helps her," he added.

Mrs Ibrahim's husband, Daniel Wani, also a Christian, is from South Sudan and has US nationality.

Their daughter Maya was born in prison in May, shortly after Mrs Ibrahim was sentenced to hang for apostasy - renouncing one's faith.

Under intense international pressure, her conviction was quashed and she was freed in June.

n June, Meriam spoke to the BBC as she entered the US embassy, as Reeta Chakrabarti reports
She was given South Sudanese travel documents but was arrested at Khartoum airport, with Sudanese officials saying the travel documents were fake.

These new charges meant she was not allowed to leave the country but she was released into the custody of the US embassy in Khartoum.

Last week, her father's family filed a lawsuit trying to have her marriage annulled, on the basis that a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim.

Monday, May 26, 2014

I renounced Islam, so my family think I should die

 
Apostasy is not just something that scandalises people in far off lands. Harriet Alexander hears the story of a British woman whose life was turned upside down when she left Islam - echoing the plight of Meriam Ibrahim, who awaits a death sentence in Sudan for the same "crime"

Amal Farah, above, said the case of Meriam Ibrahim prompted her to speak out Photo: WARREN SMITH

If Amal Farah were not living in Britain, she believes she might well be dead.

For the 33-year-old financial manager had carried out an act so heinous, her family felt she deserved to die.

Her crime? She had renounced her Islamic faith and converted to Christianity – “and within my community, that’s a capital offence,” she said. “They believe you deserve to die.”

Mrs Farah, who was born in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, but now lives in Britain, has never told her story before.

She was too afraid; told that, even in the UK, it was safer for her to keep a low profile.
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But when earlier this month the case of Meriam Ibrahim came to light – an eight-month pregnant Sudanese woman, sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith – Mrs Farah felt she had to speak out.

“I had to do something,” she said. “I am so fortunate to be here, and I am in a position to be able to shout and scream and say this is wrong.”

Her voice quavering, fighting back tears, she said: “I read her story and thought: 'That could so easily have been me.’”



Meriam Ibrahim with her husband Daniel Wani

Ms Ibrahim currently awaits her fate in a cell in Khartoum, shackled by the ankles, having refused an offer from a judge to renounce her Christianity. She also faces 100 lashes for "adultery" - the court does not recognise her marriage to a Christian man, Daniel Wani, who has American citizenship.

She told the court that her Muslim father abandoned the family when she was young, so as a child she had been brought up a Christian.

A petition to quash Ms Ibrahim’s sentence, organised by Amnesty International, has been signed by 640,000 people so far – but the rights group has been barred from Sudan since 2005.
For Mrs Farah, many of the parallels between her own life and Ms Ibrahim’s are striking.
Both women are pregnant with their second child. Both were born in the Greater Horn of Africa region. And both lost their fathers when they were young girls.

Ironically, Mrs Farah’s father was very secular. A high-ranking general in the Somali army, he served under Siad Barre, the military dictator, before going into exile in Ethiopia, where he campaigned for democracy. When Mrs Farah was aged just three, he was killed by a landmine.

“After that, little by little, my mother became more religious,” she said. “We were all Muslims, of course, but the older I got the more I was told to pray, to wear conservative clothes and so on. It wasn’t that I disliked Islam per se. But I disliked being told what to do, like being forced to wear the hijab. I dreamt of having control over my own life.”

A turning point came, she said, when her mother prepared her for circumcision, a practice now widely viewed as barbaric, and better known as female genital mutilation.

“I was really scared, and she was talking about how it was religious purification – an essential rite. I asked if there was anything I could do to change her mind, and she said no. I think that’s when I realised that I hated this feeling of powerlessness.”

When Mrs Farah was 18, the family fled Somalia – her mother, who had remarried, her stepfather, and her four half-siblings.

And it was when she began her degree in molecular biology at a British red-brick university that a new world opened up for her.

“It was a revelation,” she said. “I met atheists, staunch Christians, Jews, Hindus – they challenged me about my views, and I about theirs. It was an incredible sensation to be able to ask questions, and discuss ideas without fear, without looking over my shoulder. I had been in a cocoon – unquestioning, with everyone told they had to think the same way.

“It happened very organically for me. Initially I started exploring my own faith, reading all I could on the Koran – different translations, historical perspectives, listening to cassettes of various Saudi or Egyptian imams.

“At first my Mum thought it was wonderful. And I really did see the goodness in it; the sense of generosity, of speaking the truth, and not back biting. I don’t think it is a terrible religion at all.”

But she felt in her heart that it was not for her – and that, to be true to herself, she could no longer call herself a Muslim.

Yet finally she dared to broach the subject gently with her family – saying she was “having doubts about Islam” – her mother was “heartbroken”.

“My mother’s first words were: ’But you’re going to hell!’ They see that life is a test, and that my decision was but a challenge to my faith, and one which should be overcome.”

At first they tried to persuade her. Cousins telephoned her constantly, and an uncle was dispatched from Saudi Arabia to spend three days “answering her questions”.

In the eyes of the deeply-conservative Somali community in Leicester, of which her family was part, renouncing Islam was an act potentially punishable by death.

“It became more threatening. My mother felt incredibly guilty – she was also very, very angry.

"She blamed herself for the exposure to corrupt Western ways, and said: 'I knew it was wrong to bring you here. It was like putting you in the sea and asking you not to taste salt.’”

Mrs Farah has not spoken to her relatives since 2005.

She is adamant that it is not a problem with Islam, but rather one of intolerant societies.

“If you look at the Old Testament, there are some shocking things there,” she said. “But Jewish society realises that it’s no longer acceptable to stone someone to death, or to cut out their eyes, or enslave them. And the vast majority of Muslims realise that too.

“It’s just the extremists in Pakistan or Saudi or Sudan who fail to see the message of humanity behind the words.”

The crime of apostasy – for which Ms Ibrahim has been sentenced to death – is defined as the renouncing of your religion.

Some divisions of Christianity – among them Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Baptists – believe apostasy is a sin. But it is mainly seen as an Islamic crime, based on a Hadith – saying - from Prophet Muhammad who said, “Whoever changes his religion kill him.” But many scholars point out that numerous verses in the Koran guarantee freedom of belief.

Nina Shea, director of the Centre for Religious Freedom at New York’s Hudson Institute, said that apostasy from Islam is criminalised in many, though not all, Muslim-majority states. Turkey does not criminalise it, but Iran and Saudi Arabia do imprison converts. Actual executions by governments for conversion are virtually unheard of today.

“In the case of Meriam Ibrahim, the government of Sudan is adopting the practice of Islamic extremist groups like Boko Haram, al-Shabab, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” she said. “All of those groups do put Christian converts to death.”

Mrs Farah tries not to think about her estranged family.

Her mother moved the family back to Somalia shortly after they last spoke – fearful that more of her children would abandon the faith. For her own safety, the Telegraph is not revealing particulars about where she now lives in Britain.

“I try to focus on the positive things,” Mrs Farah said. “I craved my freedom, and it took me a long time to be brave enough. I try not to think of my family, as it upsets me too much. I just wish, idealistically I suppose, that it didn’t have to be like this.

Somalia Militants Kill Woman For Christian Faith

By BosNewsLife Africa Service

SOMALIA MILITIA
Al-Shabab has killed several Christians in recent years


MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (BosNewsLife)-- Minority Christians in Somalia face new challenges after suspected Islamic militants managed to enter the capital Mogadishu where they murdered a young woman for openly professing her faith in Jesus Christ, BosNewsLife learned.

Sufia was at home with her parents when armed men, who were believed to belong to the al-Shabab group, burst into her home, Christians said.

Leaving her parents untouched, the men apparently grabbed Sufia, forcefully dragging the woman from the home at gunpoint. They reportedly publicly shot her, firing into the on-looking crowd as friends and neighbors tried to save her.

No more details or the last name of Sufia were released amid security concerns.

FLEEING SCENE

Sufia's killers fled the scene and police so far did not detain suspects in last month's murder.

Her death came shortly after two Somali lawmakers were assassinated in Mogadishu, within 24 hours of each other, in attacks claimed by the Somali militant group al-Shabab.

Somali officials said unidentified gunmen shot and killed parliament member Abdiaziz Isaak Mursal as he was leaving his home in the capital on April 22.

He was reportedly killed for allowing the "invasion of the Christians into Somalia," refering to a lawmakers' vote to accept financial support from Western governments and members of the African Union who have sent troops into Somalia to oppose Islamist rebel groups.

A day earlier, another legislator, Isaak Mohammed, was killed by a bomb hidden in his car.  The explosion left another lawmaker seriously wounded.

PRIME MINISTER FURIOUS

Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed condemned the killings, saying the violence only strengthens Somalia's resolve to defeat terrorism.

Among other known recent attacks against Christians was the murder of 41-year-old mother, Sadia Ali Omar, and her 35-year-old cousin, Osman Mohamoud Moge. They were beheaded in the port village of Barawa by al-Shabab on March 4.

Local residents, including Sadia's two daughters, aged 8 and 15, "were called to witness" the executions after they "found out that they were Christians," Christian aid workers said.

Al-Shabab says all Somalis are born Muslims, and those found practicing other faiths are considered guilty of "apostasy", or leaving Islam, and should be put to death.

The Islamist group, which used to control huge swathes of Mogadishu, has been under pressure in recent weeks, as the African Union peacekeeping force, known as AMISOM, has reportedly reclaimed at least 10 towns previously controlled by the militants.

Key Leader of Somalia’s Underground Church Slain

Pastor oversaw five groups in nearly 100 percent Muslim country.

AMISOM troops from Djibouti in Beledweyne, Somalia (Ilyas A. Abukar, Wikipedia)
AMISOM troops from Djibouti in Beledweyne, Somalia (Ilyas A. Abukar, Wikipedia)
NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Underground Christians in Somalia are struggling to recover from the loss of a prominent church leader gunned down in March.
As in many cases of the mounting number of murders of secret Christians in Somalia, Islamic extremists with the Al Shabaab rebel group were suspected in the March 16 shooting of Abdishakur Yusuf at 9:40 a.m. on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu. A leader of five underground groups in a country where leaving Islam is punishable by death, Yusuf’s prominence made publication of his death at the time too raw for the many who knew him, but they have granted permission now as they seek the prayers of brethren worldwide.
“Sadness and grief has befallen our community when our dear brother Abdishakur Yusuf was mercilessly murdered in Mogadishu by unknown gunmen,” a source who requested anonymity told Morning Star News. “He was found outside his house lying in a pool of blood.”
Al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda-affiliated force that has lost south and central territory to Somali government and Kenyan military forces the past two years, has members residing both clandestinely and openly in Somalia, including Mogadishu, sources said. Al Shabaab members constantly monitor movements of those they suspect of being Christians, they said.
Yusuf leaves a widow and three children, ages 11, 8 and 5; they have been relocated.
“He was shot in the head multiple times, so that his face is barely recognizable,” the source said. “We appeal to our brothers and sister to help the young family of our brother who is now with the Lord in a place where there is no more pain. We had to hold series of counseling and consolation meetings for our believers.”
Among duties of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peace-keeping troops in Somalia is to support the Federal Government of Somalia’s forces against Al Shabaab militants. With AMISOM’s recent successes, the United States has stepped up efforts to train and equip AMISOM troops with an eye toward squelching Al-Shabaab’s influence.
In the port town of Barawa in the Lower Shebelle Region, Islamic extremists from Al Shabaab on March 4 publicly beheaded a mother of two girls and her cousin after discovering they were Christians, sources said. The extremists called residents to the town center to witness the executions of 41-year-old Sadia Ali Omar and her 35-year-old cousin, Osman Mohamoud Moge, the sources said. Several sources independently confirmed the slayings. Omar’s daughters, ages 8 and 15, were witness to the slaughter, sources said.
In Mogadishu last October, gunmen who said they intended to kill a Christian for spreading his faith shot him to death, according to an area resident. Two men armed with pistols on Oct. 20, 2013 shot Abdikhani Hassan seven times as he approached his home after closing his pharmacy in Dharkenley District. Hassan was survived by a wife who was pregnant and five children ranging in age from 3 to 12.
Al Shabaab was suspected of killing Fatuma Isak Elmi, 35, on Sept. 1, 2013 inside her home in Beledweyne, Hiran Province in south-central Somalia (see Morning Star News, Sept. 9, 2013). Her husband had received a threatening note that morning believed to be from the Islamic extremist group and was away at the time of the murder.
Al Shabaab’s attack on the upscale Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya on Sept. 21, 2013 killed at least 67 people, with dozens still unaccounted for (see Morning Star News, Sept. 22).
On April 13, 2013, Al Shabaab militants shot Fartun Omar to death in Buulodbarde, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Beledweyne (see Morning Star News, April 22, 2013). Omar was the widow of Mursal Isse Siad, killed for his faith on Dec. 8, 2012 in Beledweyne, 206 miles (332 kilometers) north of Mogadishu. He had been receiving death threats for leaving Islam (see Morning Star News, Dec. 14, 2012).
Siad and his wife, who converted to Christianity in 2000, had moved to Beledweyne from Doolow eight months before. The area was under government control and there was no indication that the killers belonged to the Al Shabaab rebels, but the Islamic extremist insurgents were present in Buulodbarde, and Christians believed a few Al Shabaab rebels could have been hiding in Beledweyne.
On June 7, 2013 in Jamaame District in southern Somalia, insurgents from the group shot 28-year-old Hassan Hurshe to death after identifying him as a Christian, sources said (see Morning Star News, June 20). Al Shabaab members brought Hurshe to a public place in the town of Jilib and shot him in the head, they said.
On Feb. 18, 2013, suspected Islamic extremists shot Ahmed Ali Jimale, a 42-year-old father of four, on the outskirts of the coastal city of Kismayo (see Morning Star News, Feb. 28).
In Barawa on Nov. 16, 2012, Al Shabaab militants killed a Christian after accusing him of being a spy and leaving Islam, Christian and Muslim witnesses said. The extremists beheaded 25-year-old Farhan Haji Mose after monitoring his movements for six months, sources said (see Morning Star News, Nov. 17, 2012).
Mose drew suspicion when he returned to Barawa in December 2011 after spending time in Kenya, according to underground Christians in Somalia. Kenya’s population is nearly 83 percent Christian, according to Operation World, while Somalia’s is close to 100 percent Muslim.