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Somali militia kill two over World Cup - report

Written by: Staff

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 today.

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.

Yesterday 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.


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