From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Oct 19 2009 - 17:04:46 EDT
Somali Shabaab rebels say they shot down U.S. drone
Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:26pm GMT
* Drone was flying over southern port of Kismayu
* Insurgents hunt for wreckage
* Shabaab targets Sufi holy sites in central region
(Adds U.S. Navy comment in paragraph 5) By Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Insurgents of the Somali al Shabaab group shot
down a U.S. drone aircraft flying over the southern port of Kismayu on
Monday and were searching for the wreckage, an insurgent spokesman said.
U.S. commandos killed a 'most wanted' al Qaeda suspect allied to al Shabaab
last month in a helicopter raid in the rebel-held south of the failed state.
"We fired at an American plane spying for information over Kismayu. Our
forces targeted the plane and shot it and we saw the plane burning. We think
it fell into the sea," said Sheikh Hassan Yacqub, spokesman for al Shabaab
"We are still searching for it," he told Reuters.
Lieutenant Nathan Christensen, spokesman of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in
Bahrain, said all its unmanned aerial vehicles had been safely recovered but
could not give further details.
Al Shabaab, which Washington says is al Qaeda's proxy in Somalia, controls
much of the south and centre where it is waging an insurgency against the
fragile U.N.-backed government.
Residents in one small central town, Galhareeri, said al Shabaab fighters
destroyed a mosque, the grave of a revered Sufi Muslim cleric and a Sufi
Muslim university there on Sunday.
The hardline group has targeted Sufi holy sites and religious leaders in the
past, saying their practices conflict with the insurgents' strict
interpretation of Islamic law.
"They destroyed the Sheikh Ali Ibaar's grave and our mosque. They also
knocked down our Islamic university," elder Hassan Ali said by telephone.
"We do not know where to flee."
Fighting in Somalia has killed 19,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and
driven 1.5 million from their homes.
A spokesman for Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, a moderate Sufi militia group that is
battling al Shabaab in central regions, denounced the desecration of the
holy sites in Galhareeri.
"We strongly condemn al Shabaab for its evil acts," Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh
Abu Yusuf told Reuters. "They are notorious for destroying great graves,
even in places where they just spend a couple of nights."
Al Shabaab has shocked many Somalis, moderate Muslims, with its stern
version of Sharia law, involving amputations for theft, and lately the
public whipping of women for wearing bras.
Al Shabaab fighters have banned movies, musical telephone ringtones, dancing
at weddings and playing or watching soccer. Some residents, however, give
the rebels credit for restoring a degree of law and order to parts of the
In the capital Mogadishu, police displayed on Monday the body of a foreign
gunman who appeared to be Arab and was killed on Sunday during an al Shabaab
attack on government forces.
"You see this dead Arab. He was among the members of al Qaeda who came from
other countries just to destroy Somalia," police spokesman Abdullahi Barise
told reporters, standing over the corpse of a light-skinned man with several
Al Shabaab have urged foreign jihadists to join their battle against what
they describe as Somalia's apostate government. (Additional reporting by
Ibrahim Mohamed and Abdi Guled in Mogadishu and Sahra Abdi in Nairobi;
writing by Daniel Wallis; editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura/Tim Pearce))
C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
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