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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 July 2006, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Somali World Cup viewers killed
Islamist fighters in Somalia
The Islamists control much of southern Somalia
Two people are reported dead after Islamist gunmen in central Somalia opened fire in a cinema where people were watching a banned World Cup match.

The cinema owner and a young girl were reportedly killed by militia loyal to the Union of Islamic Courts, who seized control of parts of Somalia last month.

The courts have introduced Sharia law, including in some areas a World Cup broadcast ban.

Somalia has had no effective central government since 1992.

According to reports on a Somali news network, gunmen arrived to close down the cinema in the town of Dhuusa Marreeb in central Galgadud district, where a crowd had gathered to watch the Germany-Italy World Cup semi-final.

Some of the football fans began to protest and according to reports, the gunmen fired in the air in an attempt to disperse them.

When this failed, shots were fired at the demonstrators and two people were killed.

The introduction of Islamic law, or Sharia, has included in some areas a ban on cinemas and on broadcasts of World Cup games because they have carried advertisements for alcohol.

The courts now control much of southern Somalia, introducing a level of civil administration and justice which the country has not seen for the past 15 years.

The BBC's Hassan Barise says in more than a decade of Islamic justice in the capital, there have been more than 16 amputations - the punishment for theft - in that time.

But there have been no confirmed amputations or stonings to death - for murder or rape - in the month since the Islamists seized the capital.

One of the new Islamist leaders, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys has called on the interim government to impose Sharia law but our correspondent says his colleagues have offered assurances they do not want a Taleban-style state.

Dangerous

Meanwhile, regional diplomats are meeting the interim government in Baidoa to discuss the possible deployment of a regional peacekeeping force to the fragmented country.

Facts and figures about life in Somalia

Headed by President Abdullahi Yusuf, the government is confined to the town and is unable to relocate to the capital, Mogadishu, now under control of the Islamic courts.

The diplomats are from the Arab League, African Union and the East African regional organisation, Igad, which last month said it intended to send a peacekeeping force of Ugandan and Sudanese troops.

But the Islamists say they are opposed to the deployment of any foreign forces.

After talks in Baidoa, the diplomats say they hope to go on to Mogadishu for direct talks with the Islamist leaders .

On Tuesday, a two-member United Nations security team met Mogadishu's new rulers in the capital: the UN's first contact with them since they took over from the warlords a month ago.

Most aid workers have pulled out of Mogadishu because it is too dangerous. A Swedish journalist was shot dead at a rally in the city last month.

Somalis, weary after 15 years without an effective national government, are worried about a possible new conflict between Islamist and secular forces in their country.




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