Officials and human rights organisations in Yemen say al-Qaeda is committing human rights violations in the name of Islam in the city of Jaar.
In late March, the group Ansar al-Sharia, an al-Qaeda affiliate, took control of Jaar in Yemen's southern Abyan province, and declared it an Islamic emirate.
The Seyaj organisation for childhood protection monitored several crimes committed by al-Qaeda, including when its members cut off the hand of a 15 year-old boy accused of stealing electric cables. His hand was hung in a public square.
"The group Ansar al-Sharia has committed crimes and immoral practices, including cutting off the hand of a man on the same charge [of stealing electric cables] who died of his wounds. It also executed an individual for killing a member of its group," said Seyai president Ahmed al-Qurashi.
"The crimes and abuses committed by al-Qaeda in Jaar that emerged are just the tip of the iceberg, and there are many more that no one knows about. The organisation has control of the city and people are afraid and cannot confront it. There are thus a lot of crimes that people in Jaar cannot discuss," he told Al-Shorfa.
Al-Qurashi said these crimes are violations against human rights, adding that they will be included in an annual report published by the organisation at the end of the year.
Ahmed al-Rahwi, deputy governor of Abyan province, told Al-Shorfa, "Al-Qaeda practices the most heinous crimes against humanity. They put the rest of the population of Jaar and the directorate of Khanfar in a state of terror and intense fear."
"By carrying out these crimes, al-Qaeda seeks to gain supporters from inside and outside on the grounds that it is implementing Sharia laws against the perpetrators of crimes of theft and murder. But in fact, it deceives people in the name of Islam and deludes the world with claims it is implementing the provisions of Islamic law. This is similar to what the organisation and the Taliban in Afghanistan did when it took over Kabul."
Al-Rahwi said Ansar al-Sharia carries out these provisions against the poor and vulnerable members of the population.
"This group uses the guise of religion and exploits it to its advantage in the service of their interests," he said.
Sheikh Zaid Abdul-Rahman Bin Yahya, a religious scholar and director of the Al-Noor Centre for Studies and Research, told Al-Shorfa no one is authorised to carry out hadd punishment -- the implementation of Sharia provisions, such as cutting off hands of those who steal or executing murderers.
"Who has conferred this right upon the group Ansar al-Sharia in Abyan?" he asked.
"This is an injustice to human beings and their rights. Ansar al-Sharia confused the issue. They allege to defend Sharia and Islam when they are in fact far-removed from both."
"They are not authorised to carry out hadd punishment unless the people have agreed to be governed by them -- this did not happen," he said.
Bin Yahya said hadd punishment must be carried out if certain legitimate conditions are present, including the condition that the person being punished is over 18 years old, and that no compelling circumstances led people to commit such crimes.
"Not any group is empowered to try the accused or implement any Sharia provisions."
"The Caliph Omar Bin al-Khattab suspended implementation of hadd punishment, particularly cutting off hands, if there is a famine or in time of war".
Bin Yahya said al-Qaeda elements "are using religion for their own purposes to serve their goals", likening them to "brainwashed people", adding that what Ansar al-Sharia is doing distorts the image of Islam.
"Islam is ethics and higher meaning before it is judicial legislation. Hadd punishments are a small part of it. Al-Qaeda presented an outrageous image to the public about Islam."