June 15, 2010 / 12:46 PM / 10 years ago

Somali Islamists kill two for watching World Cup

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali Islamist militants killed two people and arrested dozens of others for breaking a ban on watching the World Cup on television, residents said.

They said the masked fighters from the Hizbul Islam group raided houses on Sunday and Monday in the Afgoi district, 30 km (19 miles) south of the capital Mogadishu, after hardline Islamist groups banned Somalis from watching the tournament.

“Hizbul Islam killed two people and arrested 35 others, all World Cup fans,” Ali Yasin Gedi, vice-chairman of the Elman rights group, told Reuters on Tuesday.

“Islamists unexpectedly entered houses in Afgoi district and then fired (at) some people who tried to jump over the wall to escape” he added.

Hizbul Islam and another group, al Shabaab, which is widely seen as al Qaeda’s proxy in the region, control large swathes of the country and much of the capital.

The groups enforce their own strict interpretation of Islam, routinely banning sport, music and dancing.

“Hizbul Islam unexpectedly knocked on our doors. They jumped over our wall. It was midnight and my two sons and others from the neighbourhood were watching the World Cup,” resident Ismail Sidow said.

Some residents in Islamist-controlled areas are furtively watching the world’s biggest sporting event, which is being staged in Africa for the first time, using makeshift satellite dishes to capture foreign broadcasts from South Africa.

“The first goal of the World Cup (scored) by South Africa is itself very great — we should be proud of it,” said Mohamed Muhidiin Xute, a member of Somalia’s Football Federation.

A three-year insurgency in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation has left 21,000 people dead and forced 1.5 million from their homes. Only small pockets of the capital remain in the hands of a Western-backed government and African Union peacekeepers.

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