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Two Somali men executed for watching World Cup

People sit around a television set to watch the opening game of the 2010 World Cup in Mogadishu.

Feisal Omar/Reuters

People sit around a television set to watch the opening game of the 2010 World Cup in Mogadishu.

Jodi Lai  June 14, 2010 – 1:51 pm

Two Somali soccer fans were executed on the weekend by Islamic militants after they were caught watching a World Cup match, the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph‘s correspondent in South Africa reports.

The men were watching the Nigeria-Argentina game near Mogadishu on Saturday when their house was stormed by extremist militants in the Hizbul Islam group (part of al Shabaab), which controls the area. Ten others were arrested. There is no information on how the two men were executed or any other details about their identities.

Many towns in Somalia that are not controlled by the government are banned from watching the World Cup, which has been declared by al Shabaab as “un-Islamic,” because citizens should be focusing on the “pursuit of holy jihad,” the Telegraph reports:

“We are warning all the youth of Somalia not to dare watch these World Cup matches. It is a waste of money and time and they will not benefit anything or get any experience by watching mad men jumping up and down,” said Sheikh Mohamed Abdi Aros, a spokesman for the group.

On Friday, 30 people were arrested in Somalia for watching the Australia-Germany game.

Because of the ban, Somalian soccer fans have been forced underground, the Wall Street Journal reports. Although al Shabaab hasn’t actually declared consequences for being caught watching the World Cup, people are aware of the risk but continue to find ways around it:

The group hasn’t yet laid out specific consequences for those defying the ban, the militants have been known to behead or amputate limbs of people who oppose them.

Somalis in both government-controlled and and al Shabaab-run areas have been lining up at electronics shops to buy satellite dishes to watch at home. Local technicians will — for a fee — patch together dishes and wires to rig televisions to show the games

The only safe place to watch World Cup games in Somalia is at the public Dhamuke Cinema, which is in a small government-controlled area in Mogadishu, the WSJ reports:

Dhamuke, which is open every day from 10 a.m. to midnight, is almost always full of young people eager to escape the social strictures imposed in other parts of Somalia. Boys and girls are allowed to sit together — a taboo in al Shabaab-controlled areas. Older soccer addicts also occupy the folding metal chairs.

On nights when soccer isn’t on, the audience watches whatever else is on hand — American movies, Bollywood flicks and films in Swahili and Somali. When one finishes, another reel starts rolling. Price of admission is 2,000 Somali shillings, or a few pennies.

Outside of the government-run area, the cinemas will be dark because showing the games is too dangerous.

Somalia has a national soccer team, but it has never qualified for the World Cup.

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