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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Anger at Somali face veil burning
A Somali woman in a niqab
Niqabs and burkas have become more popular in recent years
Two hand grenades have gone off in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, where government soldiers were confiscating and burning face veils worn by women.

A BBC correspondent says one woman was injured in the explosions at a junction near the city's main Bakara market.

Eyewitnesses say soldiers were ordering women in burkas to remove their face veils on Tuesday, but the operation was later stopped by their superiors.

Wearing of face veils was encouraged by the Islamists ousted last December.

Correspondents say traditionally Somali women tend to just cover their heads, but in recent years burkas - which cover the entire face and body - and niqabs - a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear - have become more popular.

I have been running a small tea-shop but I have destroyed it
A widow in Mogadishu

The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) which ruled much of southern Somalia for six months last year were driven from power by Ethiopian-backed government forces.

Last month, Mogadishu experienced its worst fighting in 16 years as the government soldiers and insurgents battled for control.

The government says it has now defeated Islamist fighters and the new mayor of Mogadishu is trying to stamp his authority on the city.

In a dawn raid, African Union peacekeepers and government troops found a substantial weapons haul buried in a residential area.


Eyewitnesses says people became angry when government soldiers began burning the face veils, saying it was a religious violation.

Find out about different styles of Muslim headscarf

The BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says women were fearful of leaving their homes wearing veils on Wednesday morning.

However, as news spread that it was not an officially sanctioned operation, they have felt more confident about going out into the streets.

Meanwhile, the demolitions of illegal structures has entered a second day.

A civilian was killed and another wounded in Bakara market when an unidentified masked man hurled a bomb at the chemist shop area.

"It is believed that the bomb was meant to government troops, who were busy in demolishing illegal kiosks and stalls in the streets of the market," shop owner Ali Kheyre Abdulle told the BBC.


Mogadishu's mayor, former warlord Mohamed Dheere, says the exercise is to boost security and clean up the city.

Last Friday he banned people from carrying weapons on the streets and gave a 15-day ultimatum for illegal buildings to be removed.

Our correspondent says piles of rubble and corrugated iron sheets can be seen in the city.

Some people have begun demolishing their own buildings.

"I have been running a small tea-shop but I have destroyed it," a widow with four children told the BBC.

"Now I have nothing to support my family," she said.

Thousands of people who make a living from similar small-scale businesses in the city are being affected by the demolitions, our reporter says.

AU spokesman Capt Paddy Ankunda told the BBC 106 anti-tank mines, 48 rocket-propelled grenades, 460 hand grenades and other small arms were seized on Wednesday morning.

He accused insurgent groups fighting government and Ethiopian forces of burying the weapons.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian commanders officially handed over weapons they have so far seized in Mogadishu at a ceremony on Wednesday morning.

Somali's chief police assured people the weapons would be in safe hands until they are given to the army.

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