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Somali Rebels Accused of Crime Within Capital

Alan Boswell | Nairobi 20 January 2010

Criminal acts from armed forces are on the rise in Mogadishu. Islamist fighters have been accused of abusing civilians and looting private property.

The radical Islamist group al-Shabab has recently been accused of a number of acts of theft, the most serious incident being the alleged robbery of a money wiring company. The militants reportedly walked away with over $100,000 and a vehicle.

Moalim Hashi Mohamed Farah, the rebel group Hizbul Islam's appointed governor of the Banadir region that includes Mogadishu, apologized that some members of the anti-government forces were behind the armed robbery as well as other incidents of theft.

He said that an investigation is under way to expel those responsible from the rebel ranks. The Hizbul Islam official did not name any particular rebel group as responsible for the cited criminal activities.

Al-Shabab is the most dominant and most radical of the two rebel groups, but both have been fighting side-by-side in Mogadishu in a campaign to topple the Western-backed government.

But relations between the two groups have been shaky as a dispute over the southern port city of Kismayo has led to open conflict in the Lower Jubba area.

Analysts say the al-Shabab militant group is believed to be largely decentralized in command, and some youth within its movement could be taking advantage of the group's power.

Unconfirmed reports also suggest the group has ordered local detachments to begin raising their own funds, possibly indicating the insurgent force is facing a financial strain.

Al-Shabab has implemented Islamic sharia law within areas under its control and several Somalis have had their hands chopped off after allegedly caught stealing.

Since the removal of the Islamic Courts Union by Ethiopian forces in 2007, forces aligned to the transitional federal government have been blamed for abusing their power against civilians.

In October, a Somali member of parliament accused government soldiers of robbing him, saying they were setting up illegal checkpoints in order to shakedown passing civilians.

The African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, has allegedly been responsible for numerous civilian deaths during the shelling of rebel-controlled areas.

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