Key Leader of Somalia’s Underground Church Slain

Pastor oversaw five groups in nearly 100 percent Muslim country.

AMISOM troops from Djibouti in Beledweyne, Somalia (Ilyas A. Abukar, Wikipedia)

AMISOM troops from Djibouti in Beledweyne, Somalia (Ilyas A. Abukar, Wikipedia)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Underground Christians in Somalia are struggling to recover from the loss of a prominent church leader gunned down in March.

As in many cases of the mounting number of murders of secret Christians in Somalia, Islamic extremists with the Al Shabaab rebel group were suspected in the March 16 shooting of Abdishakur Yusuf at 9:40 a.m. on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu. A leader of five underground groups in a country where leaving Islam is punishable by death, Yusuf’s prominence made publication of his death at the time too raw for the many who knew him, but they have granted permission now as they seek the prayers of brethren worldwide.

“Sadness and grief has befallen our community when our dear brother Abdishakur Yusuf was mercilessly murdered in Mogadishu by unknown gunmen,” a source who requested anonymity told Morning Star News. “He was found outside his house lying in a pool of blood.”

Al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda-affiliated force that has lost south and central territory to Somali government and Kenyan military forces the past two years, has members residing both clandestinely and openly in Somalia, including Mogadishu, sources said. Al Shabaab members constantly monitor movements of those they suspect of being Christians, they said.

Yusuf leaves a widow and three children, ages 11, 8 and 5; they have been relocated.

“He was shot in the head multiple times, so that his face is barely recognizable,” the source said. “We appeal to our brothers and sister to help the young family of our brother who is now with the Lord in a place where there is no more pain. We had to hold series of counseling and consolation meetings for our believers.”

Among duties of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peace-keeping troops in Somalia is to support the Federal Government of Somalia’s forces against Al Shabaab militants. With AMISOM’s recent successes, the United States has stepped up efforts to train and equip AMISOM troops with an eye toward squelching Al-Shabaab’s influence.

In the port town of Barawa in the Lower Shebelle Region, Islamic extremists from Al Shabaab on March 4 publicly beheaded a mother of two girls and her cousin after discovering they were Christians, sources said. The extremists called residents to the town center to witness the executions of 41-year-old Sadia Ali Omar and her 35-year-old cousin, Osman Mohamoud Moge, the sources said. Several sources independently confirmed the slayings. Omar’s daughters, ages 8 and 15, were witness to the slaughter, sources said.

In Mogadishu last October, gunmen who said they intended to kill a Christian for spreading his faith shot him to death, according to an area resident. Two men armed with pistols on Oct. 20, 2013 shot Abdikhani Hassan seven times as he approached his home after closing his pharmacy in Dharkenley District. Hassan was survived by a wife who was pregnant and five children ranging in age from 3 to 12.

Al Shabaab was suspected of killing Fatuma Isak Elmi, 35, on Sept. 1, 2013 inside her home in Beledweyne, Hiran Province in south-central Somalia (see Morning Star News, Sept. 9, 2013). Her husband had received a threatening note that morning believed to be from the Islamic extremist group and was away at the time of the murder.

Al Shabaab’s attack on the upscale Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya on Sept. 21, 2013 killed at least 67 people, with dozens still unaccounted for (see Morning Star News, Sept. 22).

On April 13, 2013, Al Shabaab militants shot Fartun Omar to death in Buulodbarde, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Beledweyne (see Morning Star News, April 22, 2013). Omar was the widow of Mursal Isse Siad, killed for his faith on Dec. 8, 2012 in Beledweyne, 206 miles (332 kilometers) north of Mogadishu. He had been receiving death threats for leaving Islam (see Morning Star News, Dec. 14, 2012).

Siad and his wife, who converted to Christianity in 2000, had moved to Beledweyne from Doolow eight months before. The area was under government control and there was no indication that the killers belonged to the Al Shabaab rebels, but the Islamic extremist insurgents were present in Buulodbarde, and Christians believed a few Al Shabaab rebels could have been hiding in Beledweyne.

On June 7, 2013 in Jamaame District in southern Somalia, insurgents from the group shot 28-year-old Hassan Hurshe to death after identifying him as a Christian, sources said (see Morning Star News, June 20). Al Shabaab members brought Hurshe to a public place in the town of Jilib and shot him in the head, they said.

On Feb. 18, 2013, suspected Islamic extremists shot Ahmed Ali Jimale, a 42-year-old father of four, on the outskirts of the coastal city of Kismayo (see Morning Star News, Feb. 28).

In Barawa on Nov. 16, 2012, Al Shabaab militants killed a Christian after accusing him of being a spy and leaving Islam, Christian and Muslim witnesses said. The extremists beheaded 25-year-old Farhan Haji Mose after monitoring his movements for six months, sources said (see Morning Star News, Nov. 17, 2012).

Mose drew suspicion when he returned to Barawa in December 2011 after spending time in Kenya, according to underground Christians in Somalia. Kenya’s population is nearly 83 percent Christian, according to Operation World, while Somalia’s is close to 100 percent Muslim.

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