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  • Somali rebels force men to grow beards

    Shabaab tells men to cut trousers to the knee

    Somalia's Islamist al-Shabaab rebels on Saturday ordered men to grow long beards, shave their moustaches and wear their trousers above the ankle.

    It is the first time in the lawless Horn of Africa country that the insurgents, who seek impose a strict form of Islamic Shariah law, have focused on men's appearance, having previously ordered women to cover their entire bodies, and banned bras.

    "In order to ensure the complete implementation of the Islamic Shariah law in the region, we call upon all men to grow their beard and shave their moustache," Sheik Ibrahim from the Shabaab group told reporters in Kismaio.

    "Anybody found ignoring the rules or breaking it will be punished accordingly."

    He said the order will be implemented in three days in the port town of Kismaio.

    "People already started practicing the Shariah as the Shabaab ordered and with the new rules, every adult is keen to grow beard in order to avoid punishment", Mohamed Sakiin, a resident told AFP by phone.

    "You must look like them otherwise you are likely to be in trouble", another witness said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    In order to ensure the complete implementation of the Islamic Shariah law in the region, we call upon all men to grow their beard and shave their moustache

    Sheik Ibrahim from the Shabaab group

    Previous rulings

    The group, which Washington says is an al-Qaeda proxy, has already banned musical ringtones, dancing at weddings and playing or watching soccer.

    Shabaab has carried out executions, floggings and amputations to enforce its rulings, mainly Kismayu.

    The group is battling the government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed for control of Mogadishu, and is fighting another Islamist militia--Hizbul Islam—in the provinces.

    Shabaab also ordered men to wear their trousers above the ankle. "They have 15 days to follow the order," Garweyn said.

    A two-and-a-half year insurgency has killed more than 19,000 civilians, displaced 1 million people, allowed piracy to flourish offshore and spread security fears in the region.

    Somalia has lacked a functioning central government since 1991. Its transitional government controls little more than a few blocks of Mogadishu, with the rest carved up between Shabaab and Hizbul Islam.

    You must look like them otherwise you are likely to be in trouble

    A Somalia witness

    Fighting near Kenya border

    In a separate incident on Saturday, fighting between Shabaab and Hizbul Islam fighters near Dhobley close to the Kenyan border killed six people.

    "I have seen dead people near Dhobley, two young men, al-Shabaab fighters. Also there are another four from the other side," said a resident who asked not to be named for security reasons.

    Residents said Shabaab fighters had dug trenches in the town in what appeared to be defence lines against possible attacks from Kenya.

    Kenya closed its border with Somalia in 2007 and has boosted patrols in recent months.