MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Somalia's government on Tuesday backed off an order to close down radio stations in the capital that had obeyed an Islamist militia's order to stop playing music.

The government order, issued early Tuesday and rescinded minutes later, prompted two stations to close because they said they feared retribution. Two others followed the government's order to start playing music again.

The government on had demanded that four Mogadishu radio stations start playing music again or face closure. The stations had obeyed an April 13 edict from the Hizbul Islam militant group to turn off the music.

"I inform the radio stations closed today they can resume their operations," said Information Minister Dahir Mohamud Gelle in a statement.

Gelle suggested that the National Security Agency may have acted independently when it issued the order.

"The Somali government is not happy with the oppression of the media and will always work toward creating an enabling environment where it can operate freely," Gelle said.

A director of the Somaliweyn station, Abukar Mohamed Hassan Kadaf, said his station went off-air but resumed broadcasts 20 minutes later when the government appeared to change its mind.

Kadaf said he was not sure about the future of Mogadishu-based radio stations, "because each side is telling you to do his bidding."

Radio workers said they felt trapped between violent insurgents who are known to stone people to death and an ineffectual government that controls only a few blocks of the capital city and cannot protect them.

"We are confused. We don't know what will come next," Kadaf said.

Only two radio stations in Mogadishu appear to have been unaffected by the conflicting edicts. Throughout, a government-owned radio station and another funded by the United Nations have continued to broadcast music. Both stations are based in the small area of Mogadishu under the control of government and African Union forces.

Hizbul Islam labeled music un-Islamic when it issued its April edict, a move reminiscent of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. The Taliban imposed strict social rules on Afghans beginning in the late 1990s that included music and movie bans. Other militant groups in Somalia have recently banned bras and musical ringtones. A group last week banned school bells in one southern town, saying they sound too much like Christian church bells.

Hizbul Islam's order affected more than a dozen stations. They have had to re-record their ads and some are using gunfire, car horns and animal cries to act as a bridge between programs.

Somalia has not had an effective government for 19 years. Thousands of civilians have died in violence-wracked Mogadishu in a conflict that has intensified the last three years and the U.N. estimates some 100,000 people have been displaced in the capital this year alone.


Associated Press writer Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu, Somalia contributed to this report.