Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 15:47 UK

Somalis watch double amputations

Witnesses estimated the age of the four men at between 18 and 25

Hardline Islamists in Somalia have carried out double amputations on four men for stealing phones and guns.

They have each had a hand and foot cut off after being convicted by a Sharia court in the capital earlier this week.

More then 300 people, mainly women and children, watched as masked men cut off their limbs with machetes.

The four men reportedly admitted to the robberies, but were not represented by a lawyer and were not allowed to appeal against their sentence.

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

'Help, help, help!' one of them shouted
Eyewitness Mohamed Abdi

The amputations were carried out in the open in front of an al-Shabab military camp in the north-east of Mogadishu.

A local resident said the four men cried out during and after the amputations. Each man had his right hand and left foot cut off.

"'Help, help, help!' one of them shouted," Mohamed Abdi told the BBC.

Eyewitnesses estimate the age of the four men - Aden Mohamud, Ismail Khalif , Jeylani Mohamed, and Abdulkadir Adow - to be between 18 and 25.

Mr Abdi said the whole process took about an hour to complete.


Human rights lobby group Amnesty International has condemned the amputations.

"These punishments amount to torture," said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty's Africa deputy director.


The group says that committing torture could amount to a war crime.

After the four were sentenced to double amputations on Monday, mosques in the area announced through their loud speakers that the amputations would take place at 0800 local time on Thursday.

Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told journalists that the amputations were a warning to all thieves.

"If they are caught red-handed in similar circumstances, they will face amputation," he said.

He also said al-Shabab would look after the welfare of the amputees.

On Monday, the court had said it was too hot for the sentence to be carried out on that day as an amputation in such conditions could lead the accused to bleed to death.

The punishments carried out in Kismayo have shocked many Somalis, who traditionally practise a more tolerant form of Islam than al-Shabab's strict Wahabi interpretation.

Onlookers at the amputation in Mogadishu on Thursday declined to comment when asked for their reaction.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, took office in January but even his introduction of Sharia law to the strongly Muslim country has not appeased the hardliners.

The government has not carried out any amputations under its version of Sharia.

Since 7 May, al-Shabab and its allies have been locked in ferocious battles with pro-government forces.

The president has declared a state of emergency and has appealed to Somalia's neighbours to send troops to help.

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