BAIDOA, Somalia Mar 25 (Garowe Online) - Hundreds of protestors took to the streets Wednesday in southern Somalia after Islamist militias banned the sale of popular narcotic khat inside city limits, Radio Garowe reports.
The protest occurred in Baidoa, a southwestern town where Al Shabaab guerrillas ordered khat traders to sell their product in the outskirts of town.
At least one civilian was wounded during the protest, as warning bullets rang in the air.
The protestors included khat traders, khat chewers and members of the general public who closed off Baidoa's main street for hours to human and vehicle traffic, witnesses said.
Al Shabaab officers said members of their group were "injured" during the protest, with one unidentified fighter saying: "Some 40 people were put in jail, including those who organized the protest."
Angry protestors placed huge stones along roads, while loudly chanting anti-Shabaab slogans and demanding an end to the khat order.
Yesterday, the Al Shabaab commander in Bay and Bakool regions, Sheikh Hassan Mohamed "Abu Ayman," told a press conference in Baidoa that khat sales must be conducted at a specific location near the airport.
"Chewing khat is un-Islamic and most profit is made by neighboring countries [Ethiopia and Kenya]," he told reporters, adding: "We will try to ban it [khat] little by little."
It is the first protest against the khat order in areas under the control of Al Shabaab. In the port of Kismayo, the most important town the group holds, the order to sell khat in the outskirts of town has not sparked protests.
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Source: Garowe Online