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Somali militants protest Quran-burning plans

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Crowds gather in Mogadishu to protest a U.S. pastor's abandoned plans to burn Qurans
  • Al-Shabaab has been accused of human rights violations

(CNN) -- In a show of force, Islamist militants gathered in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Wednesday to protest an American pastor's now-scrubbed plans to burn the Quran.

Chanting "God is great" and "Down with America," crowds assembled at a stadium for a rally organized by Al-Shabaab militants.

Florida pastor Terry Jones cancelled his plans to burn the Quran last weekend, but his intentions have sparked protests across the globe, including Afghanistan and in Kashmir, where anti-India unrest was fueled this week by reports of the planned desecration of Islam's holy book.

Al-Shabaab has been accused by human rights groups of gross violations. The al Qaeda-inspired group has threatened African neighbors and Israel and recently claimed responsibility for bombing two locations in Uganda where fans were watching the final match of soccer's World Cup, killing at least 76 people.

It also intensified its attacks in Somalia during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, with more than 200 civilians killed in battles between the militants and government troops.

Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and sparked brutal clan infighting. A transitional government has struggled to establish authority, challenged by Islamist groups like Al-Shabaab that have seized control of parts of Mogadishu and much of the south.