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Islamist leader Sheik Hasan Dahir Aweys, left, shakes hand with the spokesman of the Al-Qaida inspired Al-Shabab group Sheik Ali Mohamoud Rage. (AP Photo Farah Abdi Warsameh)

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somalis say Islamist insurgents have banned unrelated men and women from shaking hands, speaking or walking together.

Residents of the southern Somali town of Jowhar said Saturday that the al-Shabab insurgents threatened to whip, imprison or execute anyone found breaking the recent edicts.

Resident Hussein Ali says he will no longer greet women he knows for fear of punishment.

Student Hamdi Osman says gunmen are searching buses for improperly dressed women or women traveling alone. She says she was once beaten for wearing Somali traditional dress instead of the long, shapeless black robes favored by the fighters.

The insurgents have already banned women from working in public, leaving many families completely destitute.


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