MOGADISHU Somali Islamist militants said they publicly stoned one man to death and shot dead another on Monday after both were accused of raping a girl in central Somalia.
A senior militant spokesman said the group had picked up both men in the town of Beledweyne, where the rape occurred. Both had belonged to pro-government forces, he said, but the government denied that, saying they were "bandits".
Ahmed Ibrahim, 29, and Yusuf Ali Bajin, 22, admitted at a trial by al Shabaab that they raped the girl, and the judge ordered that one be stoned and another shot dead, the al Shabaab governor of the Hiran region, Sheikh Guled Abu Nabhan, told Reuters.
He said Ibrahim was a clan militia fighter and Bajin a government soldier. That could not be independently verified.
Police Major Abdikadir Farah disputed al Shabaab's account.
"Al Shabaab executed two bandits who killed a man and raped his wife," he told Reuters from Beledweyne on Monday. "Neither of the two was a soldier. They were armed bandits who robbed travellers in the outskirts of Beledweyne town."
Al Shabaab has carried out executions, floggings and single-limb amputations after summary trials in many of the areas it controls. Charges include theft, espionage, rape and adultery. Women and children have also been executed.
The al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgency has been fighting for years to drive out African Union peacekeepers supporting the government. The group wants to impose its own strict interpretation of Islamic law in the Horn of Africa country.
The group has been pushed out of most of Somalia's main towns by AU peacekeepers and clan militias, but it still holds swathes of the countryside in south-central Somalia. It also frequently launches deadly bombings in the capital, Mogadishu.
(Writing by Clement Uwiringiyimana, editing by Larry King; editing by Larry King)