Somalian soldiers prepare for operations agai
Somalian soldiers prepare for operations agaiReuters

Two Christian women were publicly beheaded by Islamist terrorists in southeastern Somalia, as part of a campaign to "wipe out" any Christian presence in the east African country.

The Morning Star reported Friday that the two women - identified as mother-of-two Sadia Ali Omar, 41, and her 35-year-old cousin Osman Mohamoud Moge - were executed by the Al Qaeda-aligned Al Shabaab militia in the port town of Barawa in the Lower Shebelle Region after their Christian identities were discovered.

Villagers were reportedly forced to witness the murder, including Omar's eight and 15-year-old daughters. Locals described the harrowing scenes as the younger daughter screamed in vain for someone to save her mother from the brutal killing.

The girls have now been relocated to another area for their own safety.

"We are afraid that the Al Shabaab might continue monitoring these two children and eventually kill them just like their mother," said the local resident who engineered their escape.

And those fears are likely to be well-founded; according to local sources, the women's executioners made their ultimate goal clear in an announcement immediately before the execution.

"We know these two people are Christians who recently came back from Kenya – we want to wipe out any underground Christian living inside of mujahidin [jihadists’] area," a local resident told the Morning Star, on condition of anonymity.

Less than 0.1% of Somalia's overwhelmingly Muslim population are Christians.

The women were reportedly "outed" as Christians after repeatedly failing to turn up for Muslim prayers, say locals.

"The two people who were killed on many occasions did not take Friday prayers seriously, especially Omar, who claimed that she was praying in her house," explained one.

Islamist groups often monitor mosque attendance as a way of forcing civilians under their control to adhere to their own brand of hardline Sunni Islam. In Syria, Al Qaeda-linked groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and Ahrar al-Sham often mete out punishments ranging from lashes to death for failing to attend the five-daily Muslim prayers.

Al Shabaab was founded in 2006 amid the decades-long Somalian civil war, with the goal of establishing an Islamic state or caliphate in the country, and successfully seized control of much of the country. In 2012 the group announced an official merger with Al Qaeda, but since then it has seen a reversal of fortunes at the hands of government and African Union forces.

Last September, the group claimed responsibility for a deadly terrorist attack at Westgate Mall in Nairobe, Kenya, which saw more than 70 killed in an attack Al Shabaab said was in response to Kenyan support for the Somalian government.