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Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Monday, 22 June 2009 17:46 UK

Somali 'thieves' face amputation

Two of the accused, being guarded
The health of the alleged thieves will be assessed before the amputation

Hardline Islamists have condemned four young Somali men to a double amputation for stealing mobile phones and guns.

They will each have a hand and a leg cut off after being convicted by a Sharia court in the capital, Mogadishu.

The al-Shabab group has carried out amputations, floggings and an execution in the port of Kismayo but such punishments are rare in the capital.

Al-Shabab and its allies control much of southern Somalia and are battling the UN-backed government.

Hundreds of residents attended the hearing in north Mogadishu.

Armed al-Shabab militants were on guard, while the accused were chained around their ankles.

'Too hot to amputate'

Three mobile phones and two assaults rifles were displayed, which the accused had allegedly stolen, reports the AFP news agency.

"The defendants admitted the charges brought against them and were sentenced accordingly. Each one of them will have his right hand and left leg amputated publicly," said Judge Sheikh Abdallah al-Haq.

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It is not clear where the leg will be cut.

No date was set for the punishment, which will be carried out after the health of the accused is assessed.

Furthermore, Monday was very hot and the court decided that carrying out an amputation in such conditions could lead the accused to bleed to death.

Amnesty International said the four men had not been given a fair trial.

"We are appealing to al-Shabab not to carry out these cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments," said Tawanda Hondora, a spokesperson for the human rights group.

"These sentences were ordered by a sham al-Shabab court with no due process or guarantees of fairness."

The punishments already carried out in Kismayo have shocked many Somalis, who traditionally practise a more tolerant form of Islam.

The transitional government says that al-Shabab has links to al-Qaeda and has brought hundreds of foreign fighters to Somalia.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, has declared a state of emergency and has appealed to Somalia's neighbours to send troops to help fight the hardliners.



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