Islamic extremist Al Shabaab rebels shot 42-year-old Fartun Omar to death on April 13 in Buulodbarde, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Beledweyne, according to Abdi Aziz Suleiman of Radio Shebelle in Beledweyne. The extremists had been searching for her for several months, as they knew that she was a secret Christian like her late husband, Mursal Isse Siad, sources said.
Siad had been receiving death threats for leaving Islam. After his death, initially Omar fled the area with her five children and at one time had received protection from from African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldiers, sources said.
"A week before she was killed, rumors were flying that the Al Shabaab were looking for her," one of Omar's neighbors said.
Due to the threat of persecution, Omar on April 10 decided to leave the central Somalian city of Beledweyne by bus with another neighbor to seek refuge with relatives, the first neighbor said. On reaching Buulobarde, which is controlled by Al Shabaab, militants at a roadblock ordered passengers to disembark and questioned them one by one.
"Unfortunately, she was not cleared by the Al Shabaab," said the neighbor who accompanied her. "I only heard one of them saying, 'This is the woman whose husband was killed last year. Do not let her in.'"
The other passengers were allowed to board again, and the bus left, with Omar's neighbor suddenly responsible for caring for her children. The oldest is a 15-year-old girl.
"On April 13, I received news from Beledweyne that a woman in Buulobarde had been killed by the Al Shabaab," the neighbor said. "Soon I found out that it was Fartun Omar."
Sources said Omar was found dead on the outskirts of Buulobarde with bullet wounds to her right side.
"The children are in safe hands, and I am trying to look for some of the relatives of Omar," the neighbor said. "The only problem that I am experiencing at the moment is that the small children are crying for their mother."
The neighbor added that the children need help meeting their daily needs.
Two unidentified, masked men on Dec. 8, 2012 shot Omar's 55-year-old husband, Siad, outside his home in Beledweyne, 206 miles (332 kilometers) north of Mogadishu, for leaving Islam, Muslim and Christian sources said. The area was under government control, but Al Shabaab rebels who have vowed to rid the country of Christianity were present in nearby Buulodbarde.
Al Shabaab has lost control of several areas of Somalia since Kenyan military forces helped to dislodge them in the past year, but they are suspected in the shooting death of a Christian pharmacist on the outskirts of Kismayo in February. Two masked men killed Ahmed Ali Jimale, a 42-year-old father of four, on Feb. 18 as he stood outside his house in Alanley village.
In the coastal city of Barawa on Nov. 16, 2012, Al Shabaab militants killed a Christian after accusing him of being a spy and leaving Islam, Christian and Muslim witnesses said. The extremists beheaded 25-year-old Farhan Haji Mose after monitoring his movements for six months, sources said.
Mose drew suspicion when he returned to Barawa, in Somalia's Lower Shebelle Region, in December 2011 after spending time in Kenya, according to underground Christians in Somalia. Kenya's population is nearly 83 percent Christian, according to Operation World, while Somalia's is close to 100 percent Muslim.