- Al-Shabaab gives telecom companies 15 days to shut down the Internet or face attacks
- The terror group regularly uses the Internet, and has a major presence on social media
- "We will not allow our citizens to be deprived of Internet access," interior minister says
Somalia warned telecommunications companies Saturday not to comply with an Islamist terror group's order to shut down the Internet nationwide.
Al-Shabaab, the rebel group behind years of chaos and violence in the nation, banned the use of the Internet this week. It gave Internet providers 15 days to comply or face attacks.
But the interior ministry urged companies to disregard the threat.
"The Somali government strongly condemns such acts which show continued brutality and terrorist tactics of intimidation by trying to ban Somalis from using the Internet," minister Abdikarim Hussein Guled said in a statement. "Our constitution guarantees freedom of expression and every citizen has the right to access information without fear."
Main telecommunication companies Hormund and Telsom were not immediately available for comment.
"Al-Shabaab has lost control of the major cities of Somalia and are now trying to terrorize people and stop them using the Internet," the minister said. "We will not allow our citizens to be deprived of Internet access and smartphones."
The terror group is notorious for prohibiting recreational activities, and has banned films, dancing and watching soccer in the past. It had also barred foreign aid organizations from southern Somalia, describing them as Western spies and Christian crusaders.
Al-Shabaab regularly uses the Internet. It has a major presence on social media, and posted the threat on its Facebook page.
The radical Islamist group, which controls parts of Somalia, has said it aims to turn the country into a fundamentalist Islamist state.