Somali Jihad Update. “Somalia region leader to use Islamic law,” by Mohamed Olad Hassan for The Associated Press:
MOGADISHU, Somalia – The president of a semiautonomous region in northeastern Somalia said Monday he will rule according to Islamic law, a surprising announcement in an area that has resisted the spread of Islamic militants who control much of the country’s
Puntland President Gen. Addeh Museh did not cite a reason for his decision, but it comes amid increasing fears that the Council of Islamic Courts will try to seize his territory.
The move also isolates Somalia’s official government, which has watched helplessly as the Islamic movement steadily gained ground since June. The U.N. envoy to Somalia tried to bolster the fragile administration Monday, urging leaders to restart peace talks with the Islamists in order to avert a war.
Puntland, which declared itself an autonomous state within Somalia in 1998, has generally been spared the violence that has wracked much of the rest of the country. But radicals within the Islamic courts have vowed to take over.
“I set up a committee of scholars and traditional leaders to implement sharia law,” Museh said in his presidential decree. Puntland usually enforces a secular penal code, even though the region’s charter says it is based on sharia law.
That arrangement is similar to that of Somaliland, another breakaway region in the north of Somalia. Its constitution sets up a democratic government, but contains the same “Sharia time bomb” (see Ch. 1, Article 5) as the constitution of Afghanistan (see Ch. 1, Article 3), which can be cited to override secular law at any time. Then, this decision by Puntland puts pressure on both the territory of Somaliland, and its legal ability to resist the erosion of existing democratic institutions by creeping Sharia law.