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Islamist hardliners to close 'enemy' UN aid agencies

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-20

Somalia's militant al Shabaab group is reportedly shutting down three United Nations agencies operating in the Horn of Africa nation, claiming that they were working against the establishment of an Islamic state.

AFP - Somalia's hardline Shabaab militia said Monday they had banned the activities of three UN organisations in the country considered "enemies of Islam and Muslisms."
   
"As of 20-07-09 a number of NGOs and foreign agencies currently operating in Somalia will be completely closed down and considered enemies of Islam and Muslims," it said in a statement.
   
The group singled out the United Nations Development Programme, UN Department of Safety and Security and the UN Political Office for Somalia.
   
"The above foreign agencies have been found to be working against the benefit of the Somali Muslim population and against the establishment of an Islamic state in Somalia," it added.
   
The statement from the Shabaab's department of political affairs and regional administration said the decision was reached after "thorough research."
   
Other accusations included "evidence of training and support for the apostate government and the training of its troops."
   
The United Nations does not have permanent foreign staff in the war-ravaged country and runs programmes from neighbouring Kenya.
   
Since plunging into cycles of violence with the 1991 ouster of president Mohamed Siad Barre, the Horn of Africa state has become one of the world's most dangerous places for foreign workers.
   
Aid workers and foreign journalists have been increasingly targetted in recent years by ransom-hunting gunmen.
   
At the weekend, three foreign aid workers were abducted by Somali gunmen during a raid in a Kenyan border town, while two French agencies are being held by the Shebab after being seized last week in Mogadishu.
   
In March, the Shabaab welcomed international aid groups to regions under their control to assist thousands of hunger-stricken people. The group controls much of southern and central Somalia.
   
The Shabaab's statement on Monday announced the setting up of an office to oversee the activities of NGOs and foreign agencies to which they must report to be "informed of conditions and restrictions on their work."
   
The hardline militia and the more political Hizb al-Islam group launched an offensive in early May to oust the internationally-backed government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
   
Hundreds of civilians are believed to have been killed while hundreds of thousand others forced out from their homes in the war-riven capital Mogadishu.

Date created : 2009-07-20

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