Saturday, January 12, 2013

Al-Shabaab Attacks Women At Wedding Party

In spite of following the uber stringent rules of al-Shabaab in the tiny village of Bo'o in Somalia, people are still getting killed, and no-one can figure out why. Not surprisingly, it's usually the women who are targets.

It was a wedding party with only women in attendance. What should have been a joyous occasion turned into a nightmare when three young alleged al-Shabaab members turned up as they were leaving and opened fire.

The party was a traditional celebration to mark seven days of marriage and was attended only by women.

"It was a joyful day for the relatives and friends of the couple, as it should be when there is a wedding, and there had been no problems [with al-Shabaab until the attack]," said Ugas Hirey, a 35-year-old Bo'o resident. "We cannot figure out what changed; we were shocked by the gunshots and its ugly aftermath."

The al-Shabaab controlled village is located about 30 kilometres from Hiran's regional capital of Beledweyne, which was liberated by allied forces in December 2011 and has since rebuffed several attempts by the group to reclaim the city.

According to tribal elder Jama Ahmed the gunmen are believed to be between the ages of 16 and 19. He said they waited for the celebration to end and shot the women as they were leaving the venue, killing the groom's aunt and wounding two other women.

The residents did everything right, but even that wasn't enough, and now they're running scared.

Under al-Shabaab rules, brides are forbidden from wearing the traditional Somali garment, a white, one-shoulder dress wrapped in a red and brown shawl. Instead, women must wear a long dark skirt made of thick material and a tunic that covers from their head to below the waist. In addition, men and women must be segregated, all music is banned, and the wedding procession cannot comprise more than three vehicles.


Ahmed said local residents are aware of the strict rules al-Shabaab has imposed on citizens regarding gatherings and celebrations, and everyone has been careful to abide by them since militants took control of the area more than three years ago.

The guests recited traditional chants called "buraanbur" to celebrate the bride, groom and respective families. The chant did not include anything forbidden by al-Shabaab, he said.

"The Bo'o incident has marked the people who live in Hiran region and has left them astounded because al-Shabaab turned what was to be a day of celebration to a day of sorrow," Ahmed said. "It shows al-Shabaab has no compassion for those who live under their rule."

And there's absolutely nothing they can do about it. Ahmed said there's no point approaching al-Shabaab:

"We cannot hold them accountable for their wrongdoings because we are afraid to cause more damage."

So they will continue to live in fear, monitoring everything they do to ensure al-Shabaab does not target them.

What a way to live one's life.

H/T @TarekFatah

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