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Somali Islamists Kill One at Protest


One person in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, was killed Thursday when Islamist gunmen opened fire on a crowd protesting a ban on the popular narcotic khat.

A witness told VOA protesters were shouting anti-Islamic slogans before the shooting began. Reports from the scene say most of the protesters were users or sellers of the drug.

Islamists who control Mogadishu recently banned khat as part of a general imposition of strict Islamic law.

This week, a United Nations report accused seven nations and Lebanon's Hezbollah group of providing military support to the Islamists, in violation of a U.N. arms embargo on Somalia. Islamist leaders dismissed the report, calling it baseless.

The Islamists have seized control over a wide swath of central and southern Somalia this year, defeating forces allied to warlords and Somalia's weak interim government.

Islamist militias remain positioned near the Western-backed government's lone outpost in the town of Baidoa.

Diplomats fear the conflict between the sides could trigger war across the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia supports the government, while rival Eritrea supports the Islamists.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.