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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 December 2004, 14:51 GMT
Clerics 'ban' New Year in Somalia
Somali gunmen
Clerics are influential, but guns still rule Somalia
Islamic clerics have banned residents in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, from celebrating New Year.

The Supreme Council of the Islamic Courts said anyone celebrating New Year in Mogadishu would be clearly violating Islamic teachings and punished.

In a news conference, Council Chairman Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed criticised the owners of hotels planning parties.

Somalia is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, but has been without a national government for 13 years.

"Muslims are only allowed to have two festivals," he said.

"Anyone who is found either holding or participating in such celebrations would meet severe punishment," he said.

New Year has been celebrated in the past, but hotels in the capital have been advertising concerts, which appears to have angered the influential clerics.

During the past 13 years, rival warlords have battled for control of the country and Somalia has been divided into a patchwork of fiefdoms.

All the major warlords are involved in a two-year peace process in neighbouring Kenya, which has raised hopes that Somalia could soon return to normal.

However, a new Somali parliament and government are based in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, because Mogadishu is considered too dangerous.

Xinhua News Agency Somali president agrees to nullify cabinet - 10 hrs ago
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