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Somali court delays prisoner amputations

AN Islamic court in Somalia that sentenced four men to have a hand and a leg cut off postponed the punishment yesterday, saying the sweltering weather could cause them to bleed to death.

The court sentenced the men on Monday in the capital, Mogadishu, after accusing them of stealing mobile phones and guns. The court is run by al-Shabab, a powerful insurgent group that is trying to topple the United Nations-backed government and install a strict form of Islam.

"The sentence will be carried out later," an al-Shabab official said. "It was postponed because of the hot weather and fears that the victims will bleed to death."

No date was set for the punishments to be carried out.

The United States considers al-Shabab a terrorist group with links to al-Qaida, which al-Shabab denies. The group, which controls much of Somalia, is boosted by hundreds of foreign fighters.

A surge in violence in recent weeks, which diplomats said is a major push by the insurgents to force the government out of its Mogadishu strongholds, has killed about 225 people.

Last week, the national security minister and Mogadishu's police chief were among those killed.

Nearly 126,000 people have fled their homes since May 7, according to the UN refugee agency. The United Nations says an estimated 3.2 million Somalis - almost half the country's population - need food and other humanitarian aid.


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