Clerics beheaded in Somalia
Al-Shabab fighters blamed for killings of two clerics from rival group.
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2009 14:48 GMT
 Al-Shabab controls much of southern
and central Somalia [EPA]

Militiamen have beheaded two clerics from a rival group in central Somalia, Sheikh Abdullahi Abu Yusuf, a spokesman for the clerics' group said. 

Thursday's beheadings took place after the vehicle in which the clerics were travelling was stopped on the way to a hospital.

The clerics were members of the Ahlu Sunna Wal-jama'ah group, which had been fighting with rivals from the al-Shabab movement, Abu Yusuf said on Saturday.

Abu Yusuf blamed al-Shabab for the beheadings and said the clerics were unarmed when they were attacked.

"They did not take part in the recent clashes, though they sustained wounds in a gun battle," he said.

Ahlu Sunna Wal-jama'ah blamed al-Shabab for the recent fighting in the town of Balad, north of Mogadishu, and said it was only defending itself against al-Shabab attacks.

In depth

 Profile: Sharif Ahmed
Timeline: Somalia
Restoring Somalia
A long road to stability
Al-Shabab: Somali fighters undeterred
 Somaliland: Africa's isolated state

Al-Shabab has not commented on the alleged beheadings.

Al-Shabab and allied groups control much of southern and central Somalia and want to impose their version of sharia (Islamic law) in the country.

Rival members of the al-Shabab and Ahlu Sunna Wal-jama'ah have clashed repeatedly over control of the region.

On Thursday, Osama bin Laden called on Somali fighters to overthrow Sharif Ahmed, the new Somali president, saying he is a "tool" of the US.

In January, the Somali parliament elected Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, to form an inclusive unity government and bring peace to the Horn of Africa state. His election was welcomed by the United Nations and the US.

Counter-terrorism officials from the United States have warned of al-Qaeda's growing ties with the al-Shabab fighters.

Last year, the US state department added al-Shabab to its list of foreign terrorist organisations.

Al-Shabab denies links to al-Qaeda and has distanced itself from the Somali opposition based in Eritrea, saying it is too secular.

Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.