Mogadishu - Somali Muslims who fail to perform daily prayers will be killed in accordance with Qur'anic law under a new edict issued by a leading cleric in the Islamic courts union that controlled the capital.
The requirement for Muslims to observe the five-times daily ritual under penalty of death was announced late on Wednesday and appeared to confirm the hardline nature of the increasingly powerful Sharia courts in Mogadishu.
Sheikh Abdalla Ali, a founder and high-ranking official in the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia, said: "He who does not perform prayers will be considered as infidel and Sharia law orders that that person be killed."
Peace and prosperity
Ali said: "Sharia law orders the killing of any Muslim person when he fails to perform prayers."
Ali added that it was the duty of every Somali to implement the provisions of Sharia law, which after fully accepted would allow "everybody to enjoy life based on peace and prosperity".
It was not immediately clear who would enforce the regulation or how, but the courts had well-armed militias that routed a United States-backed alliance of warlords in June after four months of bloody battles for control of Mogadishu.
Members of such militia shot and killed two people in central Somalia late on Tuesday while quelling a protest against a ban on watching the World Cup at a local cinema and had in the past been tasked with carrying out court rules.
US 'supports vanquished warlords'
Muslim militiamen had also presided at several public executions ordered by the Islamic courts in recent months and other Mogadishu residents had complained of harassment at their hands for not dressing properly.
The US supported the vanquished warlords in a bid to stem what American officials described as the "creeping Talibanisation" of Somalia by the courts that Washington accused of harbouring extremists, including al-Qaeda members.
The Islamists flatly rejected the charges, but had vowed to impose strict Sharia law across the overwhelmingly moderate Muslim country in what many saw as a direct challenge to Somalia's largely powerless transitional government.
The Islamic courts had signed a mutual recognition pact with the government and were due to meet with senior officials next week in Sudan, but remained at deep odds with the administration on several key issues.
Among them was the deployment of foreign peacekeepers to help the fledgling government restore a functioning central authority to Somalia, which had been in the throes of chaos for the past 16 years.