This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/2096

Pray or Die : Somali sheik mandates death for anyone who refuses to pray 5 times a day -two killed for watching World Cup

July 7, 2006

Pray or die, Somali sheikh tells Muslims

By Guled Mohamed and Mohamed Ali Bile

http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=994672006

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A leading Mogadishu sheikh said on Friday Muslims who do not pray five times a day should be put to death -- the latest sign of a fast-emerging hardline face to Somalia's newly-powerful Islamists.

The sheikh's statement -- which he confirmed to Reuters after it was broadcast on local media -- caused consternation among residents and will fuel foreign fears the Islamists are planning a hardline Taliban-style rule.

"He who does not perform prayer will be considered as infidel and our sharia law orders that person to be killed," said Sheikh Abdalla Ali, who runs a sharia court in the Somali capital which the Islamists took last month.

After kicking out the U.S.-backed warlords from Mogadishu on June 5, the Islamists took a large swathe of southern Somalia from the coastal capital to near the border with Ethiopia.

The Islamists initially sought to project a moderate face.

But in recent weeks, a hardline cleric on international terrorism lists has risen to their most senior position, strict sharia law such as whipping has been increasingly applied to criminals, and zealous militia have broken up World Cup viewing.

An elder in the Gubta area of Mogadishu, which is the base of the sheikh who pronounced on the prayers, said he did not approve of the strict sharia punishments, "We are very sorry at these kinds of activities," said Aw Ahmed Jilacow.

VIDEO "FABRICATED"

But in recent weeks, a hardline cleric on international terrorism lists has risen to their most senior position, strict sharia law such as whipping has been increasingly applied to criminals, and zealous militia have broken up World Cup viewing.

An elder in the Gubta area of Mogadishu, which is the base of the sheikh who pronounced on the prayers, said he did not approve of the strict sharia punishments, "We are very sorry at these kinds of activities," said Aw Ahmed Jilacow.

VIDEO "FABRICATED"

The Islamists' hardline leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, said a video purportedly showing foreigners fighting alongside local militants was fabricated to discredit his movement, according to remarks published on Friday.

The potentially explosive tape circulating in Mogadishu this week appears to show foreign radicals alongside local Islamist militiamen during the recent battles against warlords.

If true, that would puncture the Islamists' claim to be an entirely home-grown movement, and fuel fears in Washington and elsewhere that their rise could make the Horn of Africa nation a magnet for Muslim extremists.

"This tape is fabricated and fraudulent and aims to harm the reputation of the Islamic Courts," Aweys, who is on a U.N. and U.S. terrorism list, told London-based Asharq al-Awsat daily.

Separately, Islamist militiamen faced off with a group vowing to fight Mogadishu's new rulers on Friday as residents feared another flare-up after a month of relative peace.

Manning checkpoints and driving pick-ups mounted with heavy guns, rival militias stood just 150 metres (yards) apart in the Kilometre Four area of Mogadishu.

Seeking to cling to an enclave in Kilometre Four, the warlord-linked Sa'ad sub-clan has boosted its defences and refused to hand over weapons, as well as briefly seizing a vehicle from the pro-Islamist Ayr sub-clan, residents said.

"There are fears of fighting in Kilometre Four between Islamic Courts Union and the Sa'ad," resident Abdikarim Ahmed said. "The Sa'ad took over a vehicle owned by the Ayr and held it for several hours. They took several guns from the vehicle and later released it."

Warlord fighters linked to the Sa'ad last month vowed to regain territory they lost in the fight for Mogadishu, which killed 350 people in close range artillery duels.

(Additional reporting by Heba Kandil)

--------------

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/115210104186.htm

By Mohamed Ali Bile

MOGADISHU, July 5 (Reuters) - Somali Islamist militia shot dead two people demanding to watch the World Cup semi-final in the latest sign of a hardline religious edge to the newly-powerful movement, a local media group said on Wednesday.

The Islamists, who kicked U.S.-backed warlords out of Mogadishu then took control of a large swathe of southern Somalia last month, initially sought to project a moderate image but have been increasingly showing a more radical side.

Tuesday night's shooting came when militiamen in the central town of Dusa Mareb -- the home area of the Islamists' hardline leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys -- shut a cinema showing the Germany-Italy semi-final, Shabelle network said.

"They closed the cinema and forced onlookers to go home, but this angered everybody, making them stage a rally," Shabelle quoted one eyewitness as saying on its Web site.

When gunmen opened fire to disperse the demonstrators, they killed the cinema owner and a young girl who was in the crowd, Shabelle said, quoting locals. The report could not be immediately confirmed.

There have been numerous other reports of militia linked to the Islamic sharia courts -- out of which the movement grew -- trying to stop public viewings of the World Cup, which have set off public protests.

Islamist leaders say that is not their policy, but rather the work of over-zealous militiamen.

Somalis, who initially welcomed the relative pacification of Mogadishu and other areas by the Islamists, are becoming disillusioned with some of their practices and nervous of a Taliban-style rule. Somalis are mostly moderate Muslims.

ETHIOPIAN INCURSION?

On a recent visit to Mogadishu, various locals complained to a Reuters correspondent of militia forcibly chopping long hair, making women cover their faces and whipping people for watching soccer.

The sheikhs at the forefront of the movement say they have no foreign model and their priority is to bring law and order to the Horn of Africa nation, which has been without central rule since warlords ousted a military dictator in 1991.

But Aweys has said he would like to see government based on Islamic law.

That puts the Islamists at odds with the weak interim government -- formed in Kenya in 2004 and currently based in the provincial town of Baidoa -- which is backed by the West and was founded on a secular charter.

A delegation from the African Union (AU) and east African inter-governmental peace body IGAD was visiting Baidoa on Wednesday in the latest effort by the international community to come to terms with Somalia's power-shift.

The mission was to go to Mogadishu after.

While many hoped the Islamists and government could work out a power-sharing arrangement, they are now fearful of armed confrontation.

The Islamists say Ethiopia has sent troops across the border to back President Abdullahi Yusuf's administration and prevent them making more advances. Addis Ababa denies that.

(Additional reporting by Guled Mohamed, Andrew Cawthorne in Nairobi)

((Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Fredrik Dahl))

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This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/2096