World News

Kenya investigates Islamic group crackdown on soccer

ISIOLO, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenya has deployed security agents to its border with Somalia after Islamic clerics announced they had clamped down on the public broadcast of soccer and films, a security official said.

Clerics in the frontier town of Mandera said Monday they had confiscated a number of satellite TV dishes in a football-obsessed nation ahead of the World Cup because public film dens were corrupting youths.

“Two groups, an undercover team from National Security Intelligence Service and (an) anti-terrorist unit, arrived here Tuesday night to investigate,” a senior local security source who did not wish to be named told Reuters late Thursday.

The security officer also said another team had been dispatched to Dadaab refugee camp which is home to some 270,000 mostly Somali refugees in the mostly Muslim region.

He said local residents from Mandera, located just a few kilometres from the porous border, claimed al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebels in Somalia had made phone calls to congratulate the clerics.

A government spokesman denied the deployment but one leading cleric in Mandera, Sheikh Daud Sheikh Mahmud, said he had been informed of the intelligence officers’ arrival.

Mandera district’s top civil servant sought to allay fears that hardline Islamist insurgents in southern Somalia might be extending their influence across the frontier and said it was a local security committee that had closed down the video halls.

“The closure of video dens has the government’s blessing,” said District Commissioner Francis Lenyangume.

Lenyangume said parents backed the move because the dens were frequented by drug pushers and showed pornographic films. Local residents were free to watch the World Cup and satellite TV in their own homes, he said.

Al Shabaab militants control swathes of central and southern Somalia, including much of the area bordering Kenya, enforcing a harsh version of sharia law that includes banning music on radios and amputating the hands of thieves.

Ten percent of Kenya’s 39 million people are Muslim and 78 percent are Christian, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Editing by Richard Lough and Giles Elgood