Somali Islamists have stoned to death a woman accused of adultery in the first such public killing by militants in about two years, witnesses said.
The 23-year-old woman was placed in a hole up to her neck for the execution late on Monday in front of hundreds of people in a square in the southern port community of Kismayu, which the Islamist insurgents captured in August.
Stones were hurled at her head, and she was brought out of the hole three times to see if she had died.
When a relative and others surged forward, guards opened fire.
"A woman in green veil and black mask was brought in a car as we waited to watch the merciless act of stoning," one local resident, Abdullahi Aden, told Reuters.
"We were told she submitted herself to be punished, yet we could see her screaming as she was forcefully bound, legs and hands. A relative of hers ran towards her, but the Islamists opened fire and killed a child."
'Irreligious and illogical'
The Islamists last carried out public executions when they ruled Mogadishu and most of south Somalia for half of 2006. Allied Ethiopian and Somali government forces toppled them at the end of that year, but they have waged an Iraq-style guerrilla campaign since then, gradually taking territory back.
The Islamists now controlling the Kismayu area are again providing much-needed security, but also imposing fundamentalist practices such as banning entertainment seen as anti-Islamic.
Relatives of the woman executed in Kismayu, whom they named as Asha Ibrahim Dhuhulow, were furious.
"The stoning was totally irreligious and illogical," said her sister, who asked not to be identified. "Islam does not execute a woman for adultery unless four witnesses and the man with whom she committed sex are brought forward publicly."
Islamist leaders at the execution said the woman had breached Islamic law. They promised to punish the guard who had shot the child in the melee around the execution.
"We apologize for killing the child. And we promise we shall bring the one who opened fire before the courts and deal with him accordingly," an unnamed Islamist leader told the crowd.