The Nation (Nairobi)

Somalia: Flights Carrying Khat Banned From Kismayu Airport

Mogadishu — Islamists controlling the port town of Kismayu, 500 km south of Mogadishu, have banned flights carrying khat (also known as miraa), the semi narcotic herbs popularly chewed in Somalia.

The order came when clergymen reopened the airport after being rehabilitated following the capture of Kismayu by the Islamists in mid August.

Sheikh Hassan Yakoub Ali, the information official of the coalition of Islamists that took over Kismayu from clan militia, announced on Saturday that the airport, renamed as Imam Ahmed Gurey, a 16th century Muslim expansionist assumed to be of Turkish origin, was open to commercial flights

Another Kismayu administration official, Sheikh Ahmed Haydar, stated that flights delivering khat were prohibited from landing at the airport.

"Such flights ban will deprive many people from getting the staff they used to enjoy chewing, mainly as part of their entertainment," said Hussein Abdi Walaal, a Kismayu resident, contacted by The Nation. "It is the first taste of the strict Sharia (Islamic) laws we expected to experience."

The reopening of the airport comes at a time Al-Shabaab, the Islamic youth movement fighting the Transitional Federal Government, ordered the closure of Mogadishu's Aden Abdulle International Airport.

Despite risks the African Union Mission in Somalia, Amisom, regularly use the airport for its supplies, but commercial and humanitarian flights have been scared away by Al-Shabaab's threat

Kismayu, a strategic town with international standard port and airport and very close to the border with Kenya, is controlled by a coalition of Islamist groups including Al-Shabaab, Khalid bin Walid combatants and Ras Kamboni Brigade.

On 30th of September, the administration in Kismayu destroyed a disused catholic church that was house to internally displaced peoples.

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