Those killed included people working for US and British intelligence, the group says
Somalia's Shabaab claims it killed five foreign spies
Somalia-based Al Shabab militants have claimed to have executed five men they said were spies working for US, British and Somali intelligence services, a monitor that tracks extremists reported on Wednesday.
The five men, aged between 22 to 36, were killed in the southern Somali town of Jilib on Tuesday, the US-based Site Intelligence Group said, publishing a translation of a Shabab statement.
The statement said that before they were killed, several of the men admitted to transmitting information that led to attacks against Shabab militants.
Shabab, an Al Qaeda affiliate, is fighting to overthrow the internationally backed Somali government in Mogadishu.
Somalia collapsed into civil war in 1991 that destroyed state institutions and has been wracked by the Shabab insurgency since 2006.
The Shabab were forced out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011 but still control parts of the countryside and carry out attacks against government, military and civilian targets seemingly at will in Mogadishu and regional towns.
Last week, UN sanctions monitors said that the group's militants run a tax system that rivals the federal government in sophistication. The taxation of illicitly exported charcoal and other tolls netting the group tens of millions in revenue annually.
The monitors said that domestic revenue generation by Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabab "is more geographically diversified and systematic" than that of Somalia's federal government.
Due to the militants' provision of receipts, the taxation system is "accountable and predictable", in contrast to the network of checkpoints manned by the government's armed forces in some parts of the country.
Despite controlling far less territory than it did at the height of a decade-long insurgency, "the group's "ability to carry out complex asymmetric attacks in Somalia remains undiminished", the monitors wrote.
Al Shabab's most lucrative checkpoint is about 160 km north-west of the capital Mogadishu on the road to Baidoa, the monitors said, citing an Al Shabab defector who reported that the location earns the group approximately $30,000 per day, or $10 million a year.
Illicitly exported charcoal, much of which transits Iran and ends up in barbecues and shisha pipes in the UAE, generates millions in revenue.
"The charcoal trade continues to be a significant source of revenue for Al Shabab, generating at least $7.5 million from checkpoint taxation," they wrote.
According to the report, criminal networks are using Iran as a transit point for illicit Somali charcoal exports.