Monday, September 11, 2006

Somalia station shut down for love songs

Somalia station shut down for love songs

By SALAD DUHUL, Associated Press WriterSun Sep 10, 10:34 PM ET

Islamic militants controlling much of southern Somalia shut down a radio station Sunday for playing love songs and other music, the latest step to impose strict religious rule which has sparked fears of an emerging, Taliban-style regime.

Since sweeping to power over much of southern Somalia, including the capital Mogadishu, in June, the Islamists have banned movie viewing, publicly lashed drug users and broke up a wedding celebration because a band was playing and women and men were socializing together.

The group closed Radio Jowhar because the programs were un-Islamic, Islamic official Sheik Mohamed Mohamoud Abdirahman said. It was the only radio station in Jowhar, some 55 miles from Mogadishu.

"It is useless to air music and love songs for the people," Abdirahman said.

Said Hagaa Ahmed, Radio Jowhar's director, confirmed the station had been closed but declined further comment.

The Islamic militants have brought a semblance of order to Somalia after years of anarchy.

But the United States accuses the Islamic leaders of harboring al-Qaida militants responsible for deadly bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Jowhar resident Ali Musse said closing the radio station was a violation of freedom.

"This directive is like the Taliban," Musse told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "It is censorship against independent media and freedom of expression."

The hardline Islamic Taliban rulers of Afghanistan banned secular music, art, television, and education for girls before they were overthrown by a U.S. invasion in late 2001.

Somalia has not had a police force or judiciary for 16 years since the warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, carving much of the country into armed camps ruled by violence and clan law.

Somalia has a weak transitional government set up two years ago with U.N. backing, but it has been unable to assert its authority beyond Baidoa, 150 miles northwest of Mogadishu, and could only watch helplessly as Islamic militants seized the capital in June.

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