Monday, October 06, 2008

Islamists Slap Sharia Law on Somalia Town

MOGADISHU (AFP) — Islamists in a town in southern Somalia have imposed Sharia law in line with their vow to bring back Islamic theocracy to areas where they were ousted two years ago, a spokesman said Friday.
The Mujahideens of Southern Somalia, a group allied to the radical Shebab movement on Thursday named a 23-member board to enforce the law in Celwaq, about 650 kilometres (400 miles) southwest of Mogadishu.

"This administration will govern the town using laws of the Holy Koran," its spokeman Mohamed Osmail Indhobur told AFP.

Celwaq, near the border with Kenya, is home to tens of thousands of people, boosted by refugees who have fled fighting in the rest of Somalia.

It has escaped much of the civil war, but local militia allied to Islamists have moved in to plug a power vacuum in recent weeks.

Islamist fighters, accused of ties to Al-Qaeda, gained control of the southern port of Kismayo five weeks ago after battles that claimed dozens of lives.

Islamists were ousted from southern Somalia early 2007 after battles with Ethiopia-backed Somali forces, ending their brief administration that had imposed Islamic law.

But they have turned to guerrilla attacks on Ethiopian, Somali and African Union peacekeepers, mainly in Mogadishu, and have had some success.

When in power in 2006, the Islamists carried out executions, shuttered cinemas and photo shops, banned live band music, flogged drug offenders and harassed civilians, mainly women, for failing to wear appropriate dress in public.

In addition, they banned foreign music, romances between unmarried teens, all commerce and public transport during prayer times and decreed that Muslims who do not pray daily can be punished by death.

Alarmed by the strict and fundamentalist version of Sharia law, the United States led Western concern over a "creeping Talibanization" in Somalia by the Islamists.

Somalia has had no effective government since the 1991 ouster of Siad Barre touched off a bloody power struggle that has defied numerous attempts to restore stability.

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