5 headless bodies found in rebel-held Mogadishu

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Five headless bodies have been found in a rebel-held area of Somalia's capital, and residents said Wednesday they suspect the Islamist militant group al-Shabab killed the men because they had helped construct the parliament building.

No group has claimed responsibility for the killings, but al-Shabab has beheaded individuals in the past that it accused of spying for the U.S.- and U.N.-backed Somali government.

Hardline militants in Somalia give out harsh punishments such as stonings and amputations to people it accuses of crimes. Militants have also banned movies and modern music, saying that those types of entertainment are un-Islamic.

Islamic insurgents control much of Mogadishu and have been trying to topple the fragile government for three years. Somalia has not had an effective government for 18 years.

Relatives and friends say the men have been missing for the last five days.

"We suspect they were executed by al-Shabab militants because they had in the past received phone threats accusing them of helping to construct the former Somali parliament premise," said a resident who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears for his safety.

The al-Qaida-linked militants consider any Somali who works for the fragile government or with the African Union as apostates.

"To slaughter a human being as an animal is a flagrant and brutal violation against international law," said Ahmed Mohamed Ali, the head of a Somali human rights group. "Those behind such remorseless and shocking attacks will be brought to justice one day."

Elsewhere, clashes in central Somalia killed 12 people, mostly combatants, residents said.

The fighting pitted al-Shabab rebels against fighters from Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama, a moderate Sufi Muslim group that recently signed a power-sharing peace deal with the government.