Somali Cabinet backs Islamic law
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The Somali Cabinet voted to make Islam the basis of the country's legal system yesterday in a bid to undercut an increasingly fractured Islamic insurgency and win popular support.
The implementation of Islamic law, or Shariah, has been a key demand of insurgents fighting the UN-backed government. But several insurgent groups have said they would stop fighting if Shariah was formally introduced.
Information Minister Farhan Ali Mohamed said imposing Shariah would help end insurgent attacks. The ministry of justice would still select judges, and police would have the power to detain suspects and carry out sentences, he added.
The bill introducing Islamic law must still be approved by parliament, which is expected to hear it within days.
Thousands of Somalis have been killed in battles between the insurgents and pro-government forces in the past two years. The fighting has been complicated by a web of clan militias, the involvement of neighboring countries, and freelance bandits who prey on civilians.
Somalia's new president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, is a former Islamic insurgent who describes himself as a moderate and has distanced himself from more hard-line elements who have attacked African Union peacekeepers.
Islamic courts are one of the few functioning institutions in Somalia, which has been without an effective central government since clan leaders overthrew a dictator in 1991 then turned their militias on each other. In 2006, the courts formed an alliance that took over the capital of Mogadishu and much of the south before Ethiopian troops supporting the shaky and corrupt UN-backed government chased them from power.
The Ethiopians left Somalia at the beginning of this year as part of a peace deal, and parliament elected Sharif as president.