Islamic extremists from the rebel al Shabaab militia in Somalia beheaded a Christian on the outskirts of Mogadishu last month, sources said.
The militants fighting the transitional government in Mogadishu murdered Zakaria Hussein Omar, 26, on Jan. 2 in Cee-carfiid village, about 15 kilometers (nine miles) outside of the Somali capital, they said. Omar had worked for a Christian humanitarian organization that al Shabaab banned last year.
His body was left lying for 20 hours before nomads found it and carried it into Mogadishu, a close friend said.
"We have been communicating with Omar, and he was sharing with me his life as a Christian," the friend said. "Last year he mentioned to me that his life was in danger when the NGO [Non-Governmental Organization] he worked for was banned by the al Shabaab."
The friend said he identified the body.
"One of the persons who saw him said, 'This is the young man who stayed in Ethiopia, and people have been saying that he left Islam and joined Christianity.'"
Omar converted to Christianity seven years ago while in Ethiopia, where he lived with relatives. He returned to Somalia in 2008 and completed his university education in 2009 with a degree in accounting.
Omar had married in the latter part of 2010. He is survived by his wife, his parents (originally from central Somalia), a brother and four sisters.
Last September, the militants beheaded another young Christian near Mogadishu. The militants, who have vowed to rid Somalia of Christianity, killed Guled Jama Muktar on Sept. 25 in his home near Deynile, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Mogadishu
Earlier that month, a kidnapped Christian convert from Islam was found decapitated on the outskirts of Hudur City in Bakool region, in southwestern Somalia. Juma Nuradin Kamil was forced into a car by three suspected Islamic extremists from the al Shabaab terrorist group on Aug. 21, 2011 and murdered on Sept. 2, area sources said.
With estimates of al Shabaab's size ranging from 3,000 to 7,000, the insurgents seek to impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law), but the transitional government in Mogadishu fighting to retain control of the country treats Christians little better than the al Shabaab extremists do. While proclaiming himself a moderate, President Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed has embraced a version of sharia that mandates the death penalty for those who leave Islam.
Al Shabaab was among several splinter groups that emerged after Ethiopian forces removed the Islamic Courts Union, a group of sharia courts, from power in Somalia in 2006. It has been designated a terrorist organization by several western governments.