London: Militants linked to terror outfit Al Qaeda have banned "unrelated" Somalian men and women from shaking hands, speaking or walking together in public, a media report said Monday.
The militants said people who break the rules could be imprisoned, whipped or even executed, the Daily Mail reported.
They have already banned women in the country from working in public, leaving many mothers with a terrible choice - either risk execution by going to sell something in the marketplace, or stay at home and watch their children slowly starve.
"It`s an awful rule. I feel like I`m under arrest. I`ve started to ignore the greetings of the women I know to avoid punishment," said Hussein Ali from Jowhar town.
A student, Hamdi Osman, said gunmen are searching buses for "improperly dressed" women or women travelling alone.
She said she was once beaten for wearing Somali traditional dress instead of the long, shapeless robes favoured by the fighters.
The list of forbidden things differs from town to town.
The insurgents are also insisting that men grow their beards but shave their moustaches, said another resident, who asked not to be named.
They have also banned cinema, music, and even bras because they say they are all un-Islamic.
"The last time I listened to a song or music, was two years ago, before the insurgents managed the full control of my village," said Bile Hassan.
The Somali government is protected by 8,000 heavily-armed African Union peacekeepers but has failed to deliver any security or services to the population.
The insurgents also control parts of the capital Mogadishu, brazenly carrying out amputations, whippings and stonings in public places.