Somalis killed for watching World Cup
The Somali government Tuesday condemned weekend killings, allegedly committed by extremist groups, of Somalis who were watching a World Cup soccer match.
"The Somali people, like everyone else in Africa, should be able to watch the tournament without fear of loss of life," the Somali Ministry of Information said. "The recent killings by Al Shabab and Hisbul Islam highlight yet again their barbarism, brutality and intolerance of Somali culture and values."
Gunmen believed to be from radical Islamist groups shot two people dead and detained 10 others when raiding a house where people were watching a World Cup match Saturday night, according to eyewitnesses.
The incident happened in Suqa Holaha, a neighborhood in northeast Mogadishu, Somalia, the witnesses said.
The killings are "the latest in a long line of un-Somali and un-Islamic activities," according to the Somali government, which compared the World Cup watcher deaths to recent looting and intimidation incidents allegedly committed by Islamic radicals against a Mogadishu radio station broadcasting the World Cup event.
A member of one group later said the watching of the World Cup is anti-Islamic.
One witness, Aisha Abdi, said the militants "stormed into the house" and fired at the World Cup watchers, killing two. Leaving the two bodies in the home, the militants rounded up the other fans, Abdi said.
Abdi blamed the Islamist group al-Sgabaab, but there was no claim of responsibility from that group or the group Hizbul Islam. Somali Islamists rarely claim responsibility, instead issuing warnings over such issues and carrying out punishments for those who defy them.
"Football is an inheritance from the primitive infidels, and we can never accept people to watch it and we are directing a final warning to those who want to watch it," said Sheikh Mohamed Abdi Aros, a spokesman for Hizbul Islam.
Hizbul Islam reportedly has detained at least 30 World Cup fans in Afgoye, an agricultural town which is about 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Mogadishu. Residents said the militants raided houses on Afgoye where people were watching the matches.
"My friends and I were watching the Argentina and Nigeria game of the World Cup at my house" when they heard gunfire, said Afgoye resident Ibrahim Ade. "We turned off the TV and came out and we saw at least 30 people lined up by Hizbul Islam militias because of watching the same World Cup game."
He said it is risky to watch the matches in Islamist-controlled areas.
"It is very clear that the Islamist groups can ban anything at their wish," said Abdi Ismail, another fan who fled into a part of Mogadishu under control of the acting Somali government. But he said such bans are not based on Islam, as there are no verses which prohibit watching sports.