Beardless men held in Somalia
Mogadishu - Religious police from Somalia's al-Qaeda-inspired al-Shabab group arrested and jailed dozens of men in the southern city of Kismayo for shaving their beards, officials said on Friday.
The clean-shaven men, mostly students in their twenties, were picked up during a raid on Thursday evening for violating a decree made by the Shabab administration in December ordering all men to grow a beard.
"Our units in charge of enforcing good religious practice arrested dozens of residents for shaving their beards, which is banned by the regional Islamic state," local police commander Sheikh Abu Hureyra Abdurahman told reporters.
"They will remain in jail for three days as a punishment for violating Islamic culture, they will be released after that," the police chief said.
Kismayo is Somalia's main southern harbour. Since 2008, it has been under the control of the Shabab, a group whose leader last year proclaimed his allegiance to Osama bin Laden.
"Everybody in town is growing a beard nowadays, if you don't you go to jail for shaving," Muktar Daneyste, a Kismayo resident, told AFP.
"One of my friends is among six people arrested in a teashop yesterday [Thursday]. Some had trimmed beards and others were clean-shaven," he said.
The Shabab administration in Kismayo and other parts of southern and central Somalia has imposed a very strict form of Sharia Islamic law - banning foreign culture and imposing a dress code on both men and women.