KISMAYO, Somalia Dec 9 (Garowe Online) -
The Islamist Al Shabaab faction that controls different regions of southern and central Somalia has destroyed many graves after accusing relatives of "worshiping dead people."
Sheikh Hassan Yakub, the Al Shabaab spokesman in Kismayo, told reporters Tuesday that the group decided to destroy the graves because the practice of praying at graves is '
"We destroyed graves where people used to worship dead people," Sheikh Yakub said, adding: "This practice was especially normal during Eid times."
Eid-ul-Adha, the Muslim festival of sacrifice, was celebrated across the Islamic world on Monday.
Local elders told Somali news agency Garowe Online that Al Shabaab destroyed the graves of well-known religious personalities honored by the Sufi sect.
Relatives and supporters regularly prayed at these grave sites, following centuries of mystical tradition prohibited under Islamic law.
On Tuesday, Al Shabaab fighters briefly controlled the border town of Beled Hawo, in Gedo region along the Somali-Kenya border.
Ahmed Mohamed Bargus, the Beled Hawo mayor, confirmed to reporters that Al Shabaab fighters entered the town and briefly controlled the police station after disarming a number of officers there.
Al Shabaab commander Hassan Jibril Jama told Beled Hawo residents during a public speech that they came to town "in pursuit of enemies."
The Islamist fighters withdrew from Beled Hawo later Tuesday, but residents did not know where they went. Al Shabaab fighters currently control several districts in Gedo, including the provincial capital Garbaharey.
Al Shabaab's presence in Beled Hawo was preceded by a two-day visit to the town by clan warlord-turned-Somali lawmaker, Col. Barre Hirale.
Hirale's clan militia was violently expelled out of the southern port of Kismayo in August, after ruling the port town for nearly a decade.
Separately, Ethiopian troops traveling inside Lower Shabelle region were ambushed in Wanla Weyn district by Al Shabaab fighters in a brief gunbattle.
Local reports said no civilians were killed during the firefight, which comes a time of increased Ethiopian military activity along the road linking Mogadishu to Baidoa.
Source: Garowe Online