Somali Islamists Arrest 60 for Watching Videos

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MOGADISHU, Somalia — Islamic militiamen who rule Somalia’s capital arrested about 60 people for watching videos in several overnight raids in the capital, an Islamic court official and residents said yesterday.

The roundup was the latest move by the militiamen to forcefully apply their strict interpretation of Islamic law, a practice that has stoked concerns that they want to remake Somalia after Afghanistan under the Taliban — including offering a haven to terrorists.

Those arrested “will be rehabilitated and then we will release them after they are told the disadvantages of watching such films and what Islam says about watching such films,” said Moalin Shire, an official of the Islamic court whose jurisdiction includes one video hall that was raided.

Militiamen armed with assault rifles raided five halls in the northern Sinay neighborhood late Tuesday and arrested women and men who had paid to watch videos, a resident in the area, Dahir Ali Wehliye, said.

Another resident, Yusuf Ali, said he saw 20 militiamen in a pickup truck mounted with a machine gun raid one hall.

Since it wrested Mogadishu from a secular alliance of warlords last month, the Islamic militia has cracked down on purportedly non-Islamic activities, such as a World Cup screening and a wedding with live music. It also replaced its moderate main leader with Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, whom America has linked to Al Qaeda. Sheik Aweys denies the allegations.

On July 4, Islamic militia fighters shot and killed two people who were watching a World Cup soccer broadcast in central Somalia. Two of the fighters were later arrested.

Before taking control of the Somali capital, some Islamic radicals had attacked drug dealers, raided bars, and destroyed video halls that showed risque films.

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