Saturday, November 16, 2013

Somalia's Shabaab militants ban residents from using smartphones

A woman walks down the street just after sunrise in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, on a street cleared of traffic for a security operation, on May 25, 2013. Al Shabaab militants have banned residents from using smartphones in Lower Shabelle, a region south of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Photo/File 

By ABDULKADIR KHALIF
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Al Shabaab militants have banned residents from using smartphones in Lower Shabelle, a region south of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.

Residents who declined to be named for security reasons say that no person from the general public is allowed to use smartphones.

“Use of iPhones and Samsung Galaxy is strictly prohibited,” one resident said.

He added that a public notice by the militants warned that any person found using iPhones would be punished. He did not elaborate the kind of punishment offenders would face.

Residents who talked to local media indicated the militants also gave reasons for banning the specified devices.

The militants are said to have been aware that some people used the devices to watch films.

“We cannot allow people using such phones for illicit motives,” said one public pronouncement.

Some residents, however, indicated that the Al-Shabaab loyalists suspect that some people may be using the phones with advanced memory capacities to spy on the militants’ operations by taking films, photos or sending messages.

“Al-Shabaab commanders in districts in Lower Shabelle region like Barawe and Qoryioley announced that they only allow the early models of the mobile phones that do not have extra memory for watching films or browsing websites,” a resident said.

He added, “They only allow types of phones perhaps used ten years ago, locally known as tooshle or niic.”

The militants, who are also loyal to Al-Qaeda group, had earlier prohibited people from watching televisions connected to satellite dishes in areas under their control.

They especially banned people from using satellite TVs transmitting programmes in Somali language.

“The zealous loyalists ban the satellite TVs because they do not want to see news and programmes showing Al-Shabaab deserters testifying the reasons for abandoning the movement,” remarked one resident in Lower Shabelle region in Southern Somalia.

In areas under Al-Shabaab control, no radio is allowed to broadcast music. Businesses selling pictures, films or musical stuffs are also not allowed.

Watching or playing football is equally banned.

Since US drones or Special Commandos (from France and US) started targeting areas under Al-Shabaab control in southern and central Somalia, the militants have grown suspicious of the use of modern technology.

The latest operation against the Islamists occurred in October when the US claimed that its Special US Commandos conducted an attack over Shabab’s house in Barawe district, 200 kilometres south of Mogadishu.

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