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Somali Islamic militiamen enforcing increasingly radical rules

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July 8, 2006 (MOGADISHU) — Radical Islamic militia fighters controlling the Somali capital have stepped up enforcement of their strict interpretation of Islam, breaking up a wedding celebration because hosts did not separate women from men and a live band was performing, witnesses said Saturday.

The Islamic fighters, who wrested control of Mogadishu from secular warlords in June, also beat up members of the band with electric cables and confiscated their equipment late Friday, said Asha Ilmi Hashi, a singer with the Mogadishu Stars group.

Sheik Iise Salad, head of the Islamic court in the northeastern Huriwaa District, confirmed that his fighters carried out the operation to enforce their strict interpretation of Islam.

"We had warned the family not to include in their ceremony what is not allowed by the Sharia law. This includes the mixing of men and women and playing music," he told The Associated Press. "That is why we raided and took their equipment."

"What was going there was un-Islamic," Salad said.

The incident occurred three days after radical militiamen in central Somalia shot and killed two people at the screening of a banned World Cup soccer broadcast.

The Islamic fighters, who have banned such entertainment, were dispersing a crowd of teenagers watching the match. They opened fire after the teenagers defied their orders to leave the hall in which a businessman was screening the Germany-Italy match on satellite television. The dead were a girl and the business owner.

The Islamic group said it has arrested two of its fighters who shot and killed the victims.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since the warlords turned on each other, carving much of the country into armed camps ruled by violence and clan law. Islamic fundamentalists have stepped into the vacuum, projecting themselves as an alternative military and political power.

They set up a militia force to enforce their interpretation of Islam and formed a court system that helped desperate Somalis settle disputes.

But the group has grown increasingly radical, forbidding movies, television and now music entertainment in line with their strict interpretation of Islam. The Supreme Islamic Courts Council has expanded its control to other parts of southern Somalia.

A recruiting video issued by its members and obtained by The Associated Press this week shows Arab radicals fighting alongside the local extremists in Mogadishu. And it invites Muslims from around the world to join in their "holy jihad."

The video, reminiscent of those produced by Islamic extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, provides the first hard evidence that non-Somalis have joined with Islamic extremists in Somalia. The group has repeatedly denied links to extremists such as al-Qaida.

(ST/AP)

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