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Friday, September 22, 2006

Somali Islamists stage execution

Somalia's Islamist group have carried out their first execution since seizing the capital, Mogadishu, in June.

Hundreds turned out to witness a 25-year-old man convicted of killing a businessman shot dead by firing squad.

The Union of Islamic Courts has also banned the stimulant khat during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Many Somali men, especially militiamen, spend hours chewing khat. The UIC has flogged users of other drugs but this is their first crackdown on khat.

Unlike their secular rivals, Islamist gunmen are not allowed to chew khat.

But the BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan says it is still openly on sale in Mogadishu as the Muslim holy month has not yet started.


Abdulkadir Mohamed Diriye was executed after a jury convicted him of killing a businessman while stealing his mobile phone.

"We tell everybody who commits crimes that they will be punished in accordance with Islamic sharia law," UIC spokesman Abdirahim Ali Mudey told the AP news agency.

"Friday's execution will be a message to all kinds of culprits."

"The militia had their faces covered and they fired until Abdulkadir was dead," witness Ahmed Mukhtar told the AFP news agency.

"It was very scary to see a person killed," said another witness, Amina Osman.

"It was violent but Abdlkadir killed someone while robbing him. The Koran says justice is the only solution even if it is painful."

The courts are divided between moderates and hardliners who want to set up a Taleban-style state.

Some cinemas have also been closed down for showing foreign football matches and films.

Security has improved in the city and the UIC say there is no need for foreign peacekeepers.

The African Union has agreed to a request from the weak interim government based in Baidoa, 250km from Mogadishu, to send peacekeepers.

On Friday, Islamist supporters again held a protest against the idea.

The UIC and the government are due to hold talks in Sudan later this month aimed at preventing conflict.

The group denies US charges that they are linked to al-Qaeda.

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