Somali Islamists issue blanket ban on movies


June 18, 2010 Updated Jun 13, 2009 at 4:11 PM EDT

Islamists controlling southern Somalia on Saturday banned watching DVDs or movies on television and said raids would be conducted to catch offenders, who would then be severely punished.

"Watching films is totally banned, even indoors," Sheikh Mowlid Ahmed, a security forces commander in the port city of Kismayo said in a statement.

"People are allowed to use their home televisions only to watch news on such channels such as Al-Jazeera," he added.

The Islamists have already shut down cinemas in 2006 in areas under their control.

"Raids will be carried out on homes of people suspected of illegally watching films and if found guilty, they will face punishment," Ahmed said.

Islamist fighters wrested control of the key port city in October, more than a year after they were driven out by Ethiopian troops backing the government.

Residents say Islamist security forces in the town recently started inspecting mobile phones to prevent them from being used for watching movies.

"Security forces nowadays check our mobile phones and if you have a movie in memory you get punished," said a resident Mohamed Adan.

The punishment normally meted out on offenders is flogging.

Somalia's Islamists want to oust the moderate and western-backed transitional administration in Mogadishu so they can impose a tough form of Sharia law.

Ethiopian troops rolled into the country in late 2006 at the request of the embattled transitional government.

The country has had no effective government since the 1991 ouster of Siad Barre touched off a bloody power struggle that has defied numerous attempts to restore stability.

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