Mursal Isse Siad became one of the latest victims of Islamist violence in Somalia when two masked men shot and killed the 55-year-old on Dec. 8. The assailants fled after gunning him down in Beledweyne, his hometown 200 miles north of Mogadishu, the capital.
Siad received death threats on his cell phone for leaving Islam, local sources told Morning Star News: "He failed to attend the mosque for prayers and used to pray at home. He used to share with us about Jesus," explained his 15-year-old daughter. A Muslim resident in Beledweyne said he "deserved to die" because he was no longer committed to Islam.
A UN-backed government in Somalia--supported by an 18,000-strong African Union force--has made important gains in recent months against al Shabaab, the terrorist movement fighting for control in Somalia. Al Shabaab has lost key cities, including the port city of Kismayo, which fell to AU forces in October, but it still controls large parts of central Somalia. There the militants have banned radio stations from playing music and outlawed bell ringing to signal the end of classes "because they sound like church bells."
Siad and his wife, who converted to Christianity in 2000, moved to Beledweyne in central Somalia after the government and AU forces captured the town from al Shabaab last year. Siad had taken a job with a local nongovernmental organization but was known to have left Islam. His death is a reminder that targeted violence against Christians in Somalia hasn't diminished, and al Shabaab, even on the losing end of war, has promised to rid the country of Christians, who are mostly converts from Islam.
Of mounting concern to Somalia's neighbors is that as the Islamic insurgency movement gets squeezed in Somalia, it is finding new life in nearby countries, particularly Kenya.
From Somalia across Africa, alarm is spreading about the rise of Islamic extremists, some with ties to Pakistan-based al-Qaeda. U.S. Defense Department officials plan to seek new authorization from Congress in the new year to go after such groups after one al-Qaeda offshoot took over territory in Mali last year and is fighting its government. The U.S. administration has called the Mali situation a "powder keg," according to The Wall Street Journal.
"The conditions today are vastly different than they were previously," Gen. Carter Ham, the head of U.S. Africa command, told the Journal. "There are now non-al Qaeda-associated groups that present significant threats to the United States." He said a debate over new authorization is a "worthy discussion."
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SOURCE: WORLD Mag