Image: Execution audience
Shabele Media / Reuters
Thousands gather Friday to watch the execution of a man accused of murdering a prominent businessman in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.
updated 9/22/2006 3:47:54 PM ET 2006-09-22T19:47:54

A convicted murderer was executed by firing squad Friday as thousands of people watched, the first public execution since Islamic fundamentalists seized control of the capital and much of southern Somalia in June.

Abdiqadir Mohammed Diriye, believed to be in his 20s, was sentenced to death after a jury trial for killing a businessman in a dispute over a cell phone, Islamic officials said.

“We tell everybody who commits crimes that they will be punished in accordance with Islamic sharia law,” the Islamic group’s spokesman, Abdirahim Ali Mudey, told The Associated Press. He said the execution would be “a message to all kinds of culprits.”

The Islamic group’s strict and often severe interpretation of Islam raises memories of Afghanistan’s Taliban, which was ousted by a U.S.-led campaign for harboring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida fighters. Still, many residents credit the courts with bringing a semblance of order.

“We’re happy now that the bandits can’t just kill people and walk in the streets anymore,” said Mariam Ali Farah, who was among 4,000 people who attended the execution.

The execution comes amid fears of increasing extremist violence in Somalia after more than 15 years of anarchy. An Italian nun was shot and killed Sunday in an attack possibly linked to worldwide Muslim anger toward Pope Benedict XVI, who last week quoted a Medieval text that characterized some of the teachings of Islam’s founder as “evil and inhuman.”

Assassination attempt on the president
On Monday, the president survived an assassination attempt when a suicide car bomb exploded outside the parliament — the first such attack in Somalia. The president was unharmed, but 11 people — including his brother — were killed in the blast and a subsequent gun battle.

The Islamic leaders have denied responsibility for both attacks.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another, throwing the country into anarchy.

An official government was formed in 2004 with U.N. help in hopes of restoring order after years of lawlessness. But the Islamic movement seized the capital, Mogadishu, after fierce battles with U.S.-backed secular warlords in June and now controls much of the country’s south.

The government controls just one town, Baidoa, 150 miles from the capital.

Also Friday, the Islamic group organized rallies in several towns to protest plans to send 3,500 African peacekeepers to Somalia to support the weak government.

No peacekeepers wanted
The Islamic militia has pledged to battle the peacekeeping force if it is deployed, and said it’s opening holy war training camps in high schools to teach students to fight.

The African force was initially expected to deploy to Somalia next month, but that is unlikely. The deal faces two major obstacles: The U.N. must lift an arms embargo on Somalia that has been in place for more than 10 years to allow peacekeepers to enter the country, and the African Union must release funds to back the mission, which is expected to cost $34 million a month.

A crowd of 2,000 people rallied in Mogadishu, chanting pro-Islam slogans and carrying signs that read: “Why do we need foreign intervention when Somalia is at peace?”

Similar demonstrations were held in the towns of Merka, Jowhar and Belet Weyne.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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