Men flogged for adultery
Mogadishu - The Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab group's religious police in the Somali city of Kismayo flogged a man for flirting and another for having a "secret marriage", an official said on Monday.
They received 15 and 39 lashes respectively in front of a crowd in central Kismayo, a large southern harbour which has been under Shebab administration since mid-2008 and where a strict form of Sharia is enforced.
"One of the young men was found engaging in secret wedlock which is illegal under Islamic law," Sheikh Mohamed Moalim, a senior Shebab official, said from Kismayo.
"The other one was found seducing a lady alone. Both of them confessed to the charges in front of a court and they were publicly punished," he said.
The flogging took place over the weekend.
Youths in some Muslim countries where sex before marriage is forbidden and the cost of a wedding prohibitive sometimes resort to secret marriage, known as "Qudbosir" in Somalia and "Urfi" in most Arab countries.
The custom, which keeps the matrimony secret from the couples' parents and sometimes from another wife, is frowned upon in most of Somalia but has been practised in southern regions.
"The punishment was only to show that people will be held responsible for violating Sharia (Islamic law)," Sheikh Mohamed said. "We are here to correct deviant social behaviour and force the people to implement Sharia to the full."
"Many people came to watch these two boys being punished. They were both flogged on the back as they stood facing the crowd of onlookers," local resident Abdi Gure said.
The Shebab, whose leader last year proclaimed his allegiance to al-Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden, also arrested women selling khat, a mild narcotic leaf very popular with Somali men.
The Shebab religious police last week arrested several men for shaving their beards, arguing that too was a violation of Sharia.