Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Back to Google News Somalia's Shebab destroy grave of Sufi cleric

MOGADISHU — Somalia's Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab group on Monday destroyed the grave of a prominent Sufi cleric in the central town of Galhareri, firing in the air to disperse an angry crowd, witnesses said.

A group of heavily-armed Shebab fighters raided the graveyard where Sheikh Ali Ibar, a respected Sufi cleric who died before the 1991 collapse of the central government, was buried and smashed his mausoleum with sledgehammers.

"Using sledgehammers and hoes, the Shebab militiamen destroyed the grave of Sheikh Ali. We tried to stop them, in vain. They fired shots in the air to disperse the crowd," local elder Moalim Abdullahi Alim told AFP by phone.

"They destroyed everything of the little mausoleum and also ordered some Sufi scholars from the nearby mosque to leave," said Abdi Mukhtar, a resident who witnessed the scene.

The Shebab, who have controlled much of central and southern Somalia since the middle of last year, have already desecrated several holy Sufi sites.

"The purpose for destroying those graves is to prevent people from overstepping the red line in their respect for the dead, which risks becoming actual worship of the dead," said Sheikh Ibrahim Hassan, a local Shebab leader.

Sufism is dominant in clanic Somalia, where Muslim saints are often also clan founders, but its leading clerics have voiced concern that hardline Islamist groups such as the Shebab were slowly eradicating it.

It emphasises the mystical dimension of Islam and includes practices considered as idolatry and innovations in the conservative Wahhabi sect adopted by the Shebab, which recently declared its allegiance to Al Qaeda.

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