Al-Shabaab militants burnt many homes during raids on villages in Lower Shabelle, Somalia in May 2017, Human Rights Watch has said. “The militia abducted civilians, stole livestock, and committed arson in attacks that caused more than 15,000 people to flee their homes,” HRW said in a statement on Thursday. Based on witness accounts and satellite imagery analysis, HRW said at the start of May, Al-Shabaab forces raided villages in the Merka and Afgooye districts of Lower Shabelle.
Senior Africa researcher Laetitia Bader said there was no justification for Al-Shaabab to abduct civilians and cause the mayhem in the region. “The militia is responsible for causing mass flight, but the government needs to address communal tensions and hold those most responsible for abuses to account,” she said. In mid-May, Bader said fighting intensified around the Biyomaal stronghold in Afgooye district known as KM-50 and was followed by Al-Shabaab raids. “They attacked villages after several months of calling on their residents to leave their homes, ” she said.
Residents said Al-Shabaab stole large numbers of cows, goats and camels – critical for survival in the face of ongoing drought. Local elders said hundreds of livestock were stolen, many died, and only a fraction have been returned to the community. A man identified as Abdi told the Watch that he fled his village, Ceel Waregow after Al-Shabaab accused them of being murtads (infidels). “They accused us of joining the government. Some of our elders have talked to Al-Shabaab and told them that those without guns should be spared,” he said.
Abdi said the Al-Shabaab initially used to tax them and take livestock and money from them, “but now they are burning our homes.” A woman from Bullo Mudey, whose father was killed and home burned in an attack said: “How can you stay in a place where there are constant attacks and where children are burned in the houses?” Bader said those who commit war crimes in Somalia should eventually be brought to justice. “However, the government and its backers need to immediately assist the people who escaped the violence,” she said.
Source: The Star