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Somalia Parliament Endorses Islamic Law

Following up on an earlier pledge, Somalia's new Islamist-led government on Saturday introduced in parliament a proposal to implement Islamic law in the country.

The deputy speaker of Somalia's parliament, Osman Elmi Bogore, announced the results following the vote.

He said the motion to implement Islamic law passed without abstentions or rejections, and will now go into effect.

In response, several lawmakers broke into shouts of 'God is great.'

Since the end of January, Somalia's internationally-backed government has been led by President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist and a former insurgent leader. Following a peace agreement with the previous government, the size of the parliament was roughly doubled to accommodate members of his movement.

But the government has so far been unable to assert control over more than a few blocks of the capital, Mogadishu. Much of the country remains in the hands of the hard-line Islamist al-Shabab militia, which has imposed strict Islamic law in several areas.

The introduction of Islamic law is seen by many as an attempt to reduce support for the insurgents. With Ethiopian troops now gone from the country, the government's failure to follow Islamic law has been the insurgents' main rallying cry.

But while the government's efforts have been welcomed by influential Islamic clerics, and some of the more moderate Islamist militias, al-Shabab is unlikely to be satisfied with the measures or halt its attacks on the government. In recent days, the insurgent group has killed a member of parliament and a militia leader allied with the government.

The details of what the government's Islamic law will look like remain unclear. But the government relies heavily on international backing, including the support of African Union peacekeepers in the capital, and would be hesitant to pursue policies that would jeopardize that support.