MOGADISHU, Somalia — Men are forced to grow beards. Women can't leave home without a male relative. Music, movies and watching sports on TV are banned. Limbs are chopped off as punishment, and executions by stoning have become a public spectacle.
Somalia is looking more and more like Afghanistan under the Taliban — two rugged countries 2,000 miles apart, each lacking a central government, each with a hard-line Islamist militia that cows the public into submission.
Al-Shabab in Somalia and the Taliban in Afghanistan — their tactics increasingly mirror each other. Those tactics worked for the Taliban until the U.S. invasion overthrew it in 2001, and now they are making a comeback. Meanwhile, al-Shabab has gained control over large swaths of this arid Horn of Africa country.
In the latest adoption of tactics long used by the Afghan militants, al-Shabab is ordering households in southern Somalia to contribute a boy to the militants' ranks. Childless families have to pay al-Shabab $50 a month. That's Somalia's per capita income.
An al-Shabab commander attributed the shared tactics and ideology to the fact that both groups follow a strict form of Islam.
"One more thing we deeply share is the hatred of infidels," the commander, Abu Dayib, told the Associated Press.
Some experts say the similarities are no accident.
"Al-Shabab is copying exactly whatever the Taliban was doing in the late 1990s, because they think the strategies the Taliban employed in Afghanistan were successful," said Vahid Mujdeh, the Afghan author of a book on the Taliban. "There is no doubt that the Taliban are like heroes for al-Shabab."
U.S. and other security officials worry about another common thread: Both the Taliban and al-Shabab have links to al-Qaida.
Until their overthrow, the Taliban gave Osama bin Laden and his group safe haven in Afghanistan. Many analysts believe al-Shabab is now controlled by al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters who honed their skills in Iraq and Afghanistan.