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Mogadishu, Somalia, August 16, 2006 – Fighters loyal to Somalia's Islamic courts will soon be uniformed to formalize their ranks, says an official, amid new signs that the movement will enforce strict Sharia law.

A spokesperson for the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS) said that standard uniforms would be given to gunmen charged with implementing court decrees.

The introduction of a uniformed Islamic security force in Mogadishu was likely to deepen existing strains between the Islamists and Somalia's weak transitional government whose limited authority the courts threatened.

SICS information chief Abdukarim Ali Muddey said: "Uniformed troops will be deployed in Mogadishu and they will take care of security. If people feel any threats they should go to these troops."

Islamic fighters 'not militia'

Speaking to reporters in the capital, he also warned news outlets that Islamic fighters, who had often dressed in rag-tag clothing, should no longer be referred to as "militia" given their new official and uniformed presence.

Muddey said: "The media should not call the Islamic court fighters as 'militia' any longer. You should describe them as the Islamic court 'troops' or 'forces' if you like, but definitely not 'militia'."

His comments came as the Islamists had further expanded the territory under their control, moving further north into central Somalia after seizing Mogadishu from warlords in June following months of fierce fighting.

As the courts consolidate their power, they had also introduced increasingly strict Sharia law, banning makeshift cinemas and other facilities deemed un-Islamic.

'We have to obey the order'

On Tuesday, Islamist gunmen began ordering the closure of Mogadishu's several dozen photo studios, according to owners who said they were told their businesses shops violated Qur'anic proscriptions against idolatry.

Mohamed Ahmed Qeliye, proprietor of the Sahafi photography studio in Mogadishu's southern K4 neighborhood, said: "The officers who came told me there is a clear instruction for the closure of all photo shops.

"We have no way to appeal and have to obey the order."

Islamic court officials would neither confirm nor deny that a city-wide order had been given to close the businesses, but the owners of at least four other photo studios said they had also been ordered to shut.

Mohamed Abdillahi Jisow, who until Tuesday ran the Alfa Photo Studio in south Mogadishu, said: "Heavily armed gunmen came to my studio and told me to stop the business. They offered no explanation, but told me that my work was not good."

Source: News24

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