Islamist rebels have ordered business people in southern Somalia to donate cash and jewellery for a holy war against African Union peacekeeping troops and the Somali government, said market traders.
Traders in Mogadishu, Afgooye and Baidoa said they were ordered to pay large amounts of money or donate arms to the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group that enforces a harsh version of sharia law in areas it controls.
“We were ordered to contribute $150,000. That is required from pharmacies in Bakara market only,” Mohamed, a trader at the Mogadishu market, told Reuters.
He said an al Shabaab official walked about the market on Monday issuing the order. Bigger companies were asked to donate anti-aircraft guns mounted on cars.
“Al Shabaab needs more than a million dollars from this market. Now we the traders are discussing in groups how to donate the cash,” Mohamed said.
“Previously, each pharmacy used to pay US $30 per month but now a hell lot of money is required. Who can refuse to pay?”
Women in a market in the southern town of Baidoa were ordered to give up their earrings and rings, which they placed on a sheet in the ground. Al Shabaab has also been announcing the fund raising drive in mosques. Al Shabaab — which means “the youth” in arabic — have banned movies, musical ringtones, dancing at wedding ceremonies and watching soccer.
They attack government positions frequently, which are protected with the help of African Union peacekeepers. The stretched force known as AMISOM shield the president’s residence and guards the port and airport. A meeting of African leaders last month resolved to boost its ranks with an additional 2,000 troops.
One shopkeeper said the Islamists have been collecting money from planes delivering khat, a mild stimulant popular with Somali men, but also penalise anyone found chewing it.
“We have understood that they are also coming to collect cash for Jihad from us,” shopkeeper Hussein Ali said. “These Islamists are restricting business in an effort to gain cash for Jihad.”