World News

Bells toll no more for schools in Somali town

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia’s al Shabaab militants have ordered schools in Jowhar town to stop using bells to signal the end of classes because they sound like those of Christian churches, teachers said on Thursday.

Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab is Somalia’s most powerful insurgent group and controls large parts of the south and the capital Mogadishu. It is battling the western-backed government for control of the Horn of Africa nation.

Teachers and a school headmaster in Shabaab-controlled Jowhar town, some 90 km (56 miles) north of Mogadishu, said an al Shabaab member had ordered schools to silence their bells because the sound was too similar to those in Christian churches.

“We were called by Sheikh Farah, the head of Al Shabaab’s education, and he told us that we can’t use bell sounds from now on. He said any school heard using bell sounds after now will be brought to Islamic justice,” a school teacher in Jowhar told Reuters by telephone.

A local headmaster confirmed the report and added that al Shabaab had informed his school that it would begin explaining to students the significance of Islamic Jihad.

Al Shabaab runs administrations in the areas it controls using a harsh version of sharia law, cutting off hands of thieves, making sure women wear veils and banning what it calls social vices, like music and TV sports.

Somali insurgent groups are fighting the interim government led by former rebel and current president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, but have been unable to deal a death blow in a nation that has been without effective central rule since 1991.

Reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed; Writing by Jack Kimball; Editing by Robert Woodward