PRAY OR DIE, SOMALI SHEIKH TELLS MUSLIMS
By Guled Mohamed and Mohamed Ali Bile Fri Jul 7, 10:37 AM ET
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.
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 meters (yards) apart in the Kilometer Four area of
Seeking to cling to an enclave
in Kilometer Four, the warlord-linked Sa'ad sub-clan has boosted its defenses 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.