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Two al-Shabaab Militants Killed; Religious Scholars in Somalia Denounce al-Shabaab

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Witnesses have reported that two Islamists from the United States and the United Kingdom have been killed in a shootout in Somali after falling out with al-Shabaab.  Reports have indicated that Alabama-born Omar Hammami, better known as al-Amriki, along with Osama al-Britani, a British citizen of Pakistani origin, are said to have died in an early-morning attack  on a village located just south-west of the capital city, Mogadishu.  One of al-Amriki’s fighters has indicated that the two men were overpowered by al-Shabaab militants who attacked a village near the town of Dinsor.  He further noted that the militants had taken away the bodies of the two Westerners.  According to the fighter, another of their allies, Khadap al-Masari, originally from Egypt, surrendered while two other extremists, including one foreigner, have also been reportedly killed in the battle however their identities have not been released.  According to sources, the two militants left al-Shabaab after they fell out with the group’s top leader Ahmed Abdi Godane.  The two men are also believed to be allies of veteran Somali Islamist, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Awyes, who split from the militant group in June of this year.  Reports have indicated that since the split, al-Shabaab militants have been hunting down and killing any allies of Awyes.  In June of this year, militants loyal to Godane killed two of their own top commanders; many believe that this prompted al-Amriki and al-Britani to flee and go into hiding.  Awyes is currently in the custody of the UN-backed government.  So far, there have been no comments or confirmations of the two militants‘ deaths from the Somali government, however local residents, along with a senior source within al-Shabaab, have confirmed that the two men are dead.  Al-Amriki was one of the most prominent foreigners fighting in Somalia.  In March of this year, the US State Department offered a US $5m (£3.1m) reward for any information that would lead to his capture  and conviction.   He grew up in the town of Daphne in the state of Alabama, and was supposedly radicalized after a visit to Syria as a teenager.  Over the years, he became an adherent of stricter Islam and moved to Somalia in 2006 where he joined al-Shabaab and became one of the militant group’s senior officials.  There is minimal information about al-Britani.  While officials in the UK have previously stated that they have been aware of the Briton’s presence in Somalia for some time, they have not confirmed his death.

Meanwhile some 160 Somali religious scholars have issued a fatwa, denouncing al-Shabaab, stating that the militant group has no place in Islam.  This is the first time that Somali leaders have pronounced a fatwa against the military group, which continues to control many rural areas throughout the country despite being pushed out of key cities over the past two years.    The announcement was made at a conference in Mogadishu on the phenomenon of extremism where the scholars stated that they condemned al-Shabaab’s use of violence.  The fatwa also comes at a time when residents of central Somalia indicated that al-Shabaab militants executed a young man in the town of Bula Burte and performed a double amputation on another in front of a crowd of several hundred.  One of the aims of the conference was to issue Islamic opinion on whether the group had legitimacy or not, with the final fatwa concluding that it is not an Islamic movement.  Sheikh Hassan Jaamai, an Islamic scholar, stated shortly after the conclusion of the conference that “it’s like a gang that comes together to kill Somalis…without any legitimate reason or justification.”  Sheikh Abdikani, a participant from the Gulf, stated that “the only thing they want is to create chaos in the country so that they can survive,”  it is believed the Sheik was referring to two bomb attacks carried out on a restaurant in central Mogadishu that killed fifteen people on the opening day of the conference.  Al-Shabaab has since confirmed responsibility for the attacks.  Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud opened the government-organized conference, which drew Somali scholars, elders and imams from both within the country and abroad.  At the end of the four-day conference, the seven points of the religious edict included:

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