The grip of the Islamist group Al Shabab tightens on Somalia.
Most radio stations in Somalia have stopped playing music, on the orders of Islamist Hizbul-Islam insurgents who say that songs are un-Islamic.
The stations said they had to comply with the ban as if they did not, they would be putting their lives at risk.
The BBC correspondent in Somalia says this latest order has strong echoes of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In the past, militants in some areas have banned watching films and football and made men’s beards compulsory.
Somalia has not had a functioning central government since 1991 and the Islamist militants control large parts of its territory.
The transitional government – backed by African Union troops and UN funds – controls only a small part of the capital, Mogadishu.
The silver lining, as the BBC reporter mentions, is that these are exactly the kind of heavy-haned tactics that lead to resentment among the people, and start to take the gloss off the righteous allure of these Islamist movements.
Howeer, the parallels to the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan are meaningful and deliberate. Of course, that led directly to 9-11. Iraq is no longer hospitable to Al Qaeda, and Afghanistan will be increasingly less so if everything goes to plan. Eventually, global jihadis are going to be looking for an alternate host, and Somalia is coming along quite nicely in that regard. The Al Shabab group has already established formal ties:
The militant group al Shabaab said it would ally with al Qaeda in a drive to establish an Islamic state in Somalia and fight for Muslims across East Africa, offering a fresh test for U.S.-backed African peacekeepers struggling to defend a weak Somali government.
In a statement Monday, the group said it had agreed, among other things, “to connect the horn of Africa jihad to the one led by al Qaeda and its leader Sheikh Osama Bin Laden.” The statement, written in Somali and Arabic, is believed to be the first explicit confirmation of what U.S. and Somali government have long suspected: Militants in one of Africa’s least stable places are sharing resources and merging agendas.
It isn’t clear whether this new resolution will result in funding or training from al Qaeda, or even if it will lead to an official endorsement from the global terror group. At the very least, the statement signals a tightening embrace with foreign fighters who have been supporting al Shabaab’s efforts to topple the Somali government.
The cooperation also could spur Somali militants to assist al Qaeda elsewhere. Al Shabaab has sent fighters to Afghanistan to train with al Qaeda, according to the Somali government. Al Shabaab recently pledged to send fighters across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, where al Qaeda is active.
I fear that as Afghanistan became our new focus as Iraq wound down, we may found our attention forced to Somalia as Afghanistan winds down. And of course there’s the pirate problem… but that one at least doesn’t require a land war.
(See the ongoing coverage of Somalia at Talk Islam)