Cellphone theft costs an arm and a leg

London, England – Civil rights watchdog Amnesty International has called on the Somali Al-Shabab armed group not to carry out amputations on four men accused of stealing cellphones in Mogadishu.

The four men were sentenced on Monday to cross-amputation (amputation of the right hand and the left foot) by an ad-hoc court set up by Al-Shabab in their military camp in northern Mogadishu. They were accused of stealing mobile phones and pistols from Mogadishu residents.

An Al-Shabab spokesman told AP the sentence would be carried out but was delayed because of fears the men could bleed to death in the hot weather.

“We are appealing to Al-Shabab not to carry out these cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Director.  “These sentences were ordered by a sham Al-Shabab court with no due process or guarantees of fairness.”

The four men have allegedly admitted to the robbery, but were not represented by lawyers and are not allowed to appeal against their sentence, says Amnesty.

Al-Shabab factions and the Hisbul Islam armed group, headed by Sheikh Hassan Aweys, launched a military offensive against forces of the Transitional Federal Government, on 7 May 2009.

The armed opposition is in control of several districts of Mogadishu. An Al-Shabab-controlled coalition in the port city of Kismayo, southern Somalia, has carried out at least two amputations since the beginning of the year. 

Islamist group al-Shabab, which literally means ‘the lads’ in Somali, is already on the United States’ list of foreign terrorist organisations. “Al-Shabab is a violent and brutal extremist group with a number of officials affiliated to al-Qaeda,” says the US State Department.