Al-Shabab bans mobile phone money transfers in Somalia

BBC reports that Somali Islamist group al-Shabab has ordered mobile phone companies to stop their popular money transfer services, saying they are “unIslamic”. Mobile phone banking was introduced in the northern Somaliland region in 2009 and has now spread across the country. Al-Shabab and its allies control much of southern Somalia and one mobile phone company official said he had “no option but to obey” the order.

Al-Shabab says mobile phone banking could expose Somalia to interference by Western countries, through the international partners of the Somali telecommunications firms.BBC East Africa correspondent Will Ross says the Islamist insurgent group, which has been labelled a terrorist organisation by the United States and several other countries, may also fear that its members and backers can be traced more easily when mobiles are used for money transfers.

Some observers believe the ban may be intended to block a rival to the traditional money transfer systems, known as hawala, which al-Shabab can influence, or tax, more easily.

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