The United Nations says it is temporarily suspending its humanitarian work in Baidoa, south-central Somalia, after its local offices were raided on Monday by members of the hardline al Shabaab militia.
Fighters belonging to Somalia’s al Shabaab Islamist group raided local UN offices on Monday, hours after the group said it would shut down three UN agencies on the grounds that they were working against the “establishment of an Islamic state in Somalia”.
In response, the UN has announced it is suspending operations in the central town of Baidoa, where security conditions have deteriorated. A UN official working in Baidoa said militants had not harmed UN officials at the two compounds they raided. “They confiscated the property in the offices and told staff members not to worry and nobody would harm them,” he said.
Gunmen targeted the United Nations Development Programme, the UN Department of Safety and Security and its Political Office for Somalia, confiscating property and emergency communication equipment.
In a statement, al Shabaab justified their decision to close the three UN offices, saying: "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."
The UN has continued working with Somalia’s UN-backed transitional government to address the critical humanitarian situation in the region as the Islamist insurgency took control of most of southern and central Somalia.
In March, al Shebaab groups welcomed international aid groups to regions under their control to assist the thousands of hunger-stricken people.
Their statement on Monday also 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 Nairobi-based UN office for Somalia says it will maintain operations in Wajid, where security conditions were “unchanged”.
Two agents seized
Two French defence officials are being held by al Shabaab after being seized last week in Mogadishu. The two foreigners had been offering security advice to the Somali government.
On Saturday, a senior member of the al Shabaab militia told AFP that the pair would be charged with spying and tried under Islamic law in a Sharia court.
Date created : 2009-07-21