Prayer time traders punished
by Taliban

KABUL, July 5,1998 (AFP) - Twenty shopkeepers caught selling their wares, and not offering worship, during official prayer time have been beaten and had their shops closed down for five days, Taliban radio said Sunday.

As part of a continued initiative to bring the war-torn Afghan capital to congregational prayer, the hardline Moslem militia's mouthpiece said the violators' shops would be shut down for five days.

The punishments -- a quick lashing with a rubber hose or leather strap -- were meted out by mobile anti-sin teams from the ministry for the fostering of virtue and suppression of vice.

Last week residents living in the Taliban-held two-thirds of the country were ordered to learn accurate prayer recitation in a scheme to be backed up by special radio programmes.

Residents have already been banned from wearing western clothing and watching television or listening to music.

Men have been banned from trimming their beards or sporting fashionable hair styles, while women are kept under wraps in the tent-like burqa garment.

The Taliban say they have brought to war-torn Afghanistan the world's only living example of a pure Islamic state.

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