Syria Jihadists Impose Taliban-Style Music, Smoking Ban

The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has banned music and smoking in Syria's Raqa, days after taking control of the northern city following battles with rebel groups.

ISIL said it had decided to "ban the sale of music CDs, music players, and playing songs in cars and buses and in shops and all places," in a statement posted on jihadist websites and signed the "Wali (governor) of Raqa".

The group added they had taken the step because musical instruments and singing are "proscribed in Islam because they distract from remembering God and the Koran".

In a second statement, ISIL said that as part of efforts to "apply sharia (Islamic) law... it is completely forbidden to sell cigarettes or water pipes in any place".

Such bans are reminiscent of those the Taliban imposed on television, cinema and music in Afghanistan when in power up until 2001.

ISIL has alienated activists and other opposition fighters in Syria, who accuse it of imposing a reign of terror on areas where it operates.

Its actions provoked a backlash from powerful rebel groups in early January, and the group is now fighting opposition forces in several parts of northern Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday that ISIL fighters "withdrew after midnight yesterday (Sunday) from the western Aleppo countryside and evacuated their positions".

The Britain-based Observatory also reported heavy clashes between jihadists and rebels on the outskirts of the town of Azaz in Aleppo province, near the border with Turkey.

Rebel groups in the town shelled areas where ISIL fighters were with mortar rounds, the Observatory said.

Meanwhile regime troops pressed operations across Syria.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and doctors on the ground for its reports, said government air raids on Sunday had killed at least 44 people, including 16 children, across Aleppo province, and in the southern province of Daraa.

Further air raids on Monday killed another five people in Daraa, the Observatory added.

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