Somalia's Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab group publicly executed two teenage girls in the central town of Beledweyne on charges of spying, witnesses said Thursday.
A firing squad shot the pair in front of hundreds of local residents Wednesday afternoon, in the first known instance of such an execution over spying charges against women.
"These women were spying for the enemy and were arrested by mujahideen (holy warriors)" last week, Sheikh Yusuf Ali Ugas, the insurgent group's regional commander, told the crowd after the execution.
"After a long investigation, they confessed to their crimes," he added.
Residents gathered at the Shebab's headquarters in Beledweyne, which lies near the Ethiopian border and witnessed heavy fighting between the insurgent group and pro-government forces earlier this month.
"The group informed the population that a punishment was going to be carried out in public on two women they claimed had been found guilty of spying," said a resident, who gave his name only as Ali.
"I didn't know they were planning to shoot them. The two girls were sitting on the ground with their hands tied behind their back. Then a group of fighters covered their faces and shot them from behind," he said.
"It was shocking, the girls were so young. They looked so desperate but nobody could help them," Ali added.
Elders and residents gave conflicting information on the girls' ages but both of them were believed to be 17 or 18.
"Everyone was very sorry for the young girls who were killed in front of hundreds," said Maryam Ahmed, another witness.
The Shebab, listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States, executed two men on spying charges outside Mogadishu earlier this month.© ANP/AFP