A spokesman says a Somali Islamic court has amputated the hands of two men accused of theft and lashed another accused of rape.

Al-Shabab militia spokesman Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage says the men had admitted the charges against them.

An eyewitness says kitchen knives were used to amputate a hand off each of the screaming men on a large table. He declined to be named for fear of reprisals.

Wednesday's punishment by courts connected to a powerful insurgent group shows the shaky U.N.-backed government's inability to control even Somalia's capital city of Mogadishu.

Such strict punishments are historically unusual in Somalia and analysts say they are partly a reaction to the chaos of the civil war.