- aid - Al Shabaab - food aid - Somalia
Aid agencies barred from al Shabaab-controlled areas
Somalia's Islamist al Shabaab rebels on Monday ordered 16 international aid agencies to close, saying they lacked political neutrality and warning against any activities deemed "detrimental to the attainment of an Islamic state".
AFP - Somalia's Islamist Shebab rebels ordered 16 international aid agencies shut Monday in areas they control after armed raids on several offices, and warned more would follow if they did not toe the line.
"Any organisation found to be supporting or actively engaged in activities deemed detrimental to the attainment of an Islamic State, or performing duties other than that which it formally proclaims, will be banned immediately without prior warning," the Shebab said in a statement.
Witnesses and aid workers reported that Shebab gunmen stormed the offices of several aid agencies in apparent coordinated raids in rebel-controlled regions of Somalia, an area gripped by what the United Nations says is the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
"Three armoured vehicles with gunmen surrounded the offices, including the office of UNICEF," said Adulahi Idle, a resident in the city of Baidoa. "I saw many militiamen go inside the places and force the people there to leave and the men took control."
The Al-Qaeda linked group accused the agencies of "lacking complete political detachment and neutrality... thereby intensifying the instability and insecurity gripping the nation as a whole."
The Shehab also said the groups were working to "foster secularism, immorality and the degrading values of democracy in an Islamic country."
The United Nations has warned that nearly 250,000 people face imminent starvation in southern Somalia, the main base for the hardline Shebab, with several areas under famine or emergency conditions.
Six UN organisations were ordered closed by the Shebab, including the agencies for refugees (UNHCR) and children (UNICEF), as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
It also barred the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU).
A regional security source said the raids in south and central Somalia were well planned and coordinated, with gunmen seizing computers, telephones and other equipment from aid workers. No arrests were reported.
"It was a surprise, but something that was clearly planned," said an aid agency official working in Somalia.
Other aid agencies affected include the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Concern, Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and the Italian Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI).
It also shut down the Swedish African Welfare Alliance (SAWA), the German Technical Cooperation (GIZ), Action Contre la Faim (ACF), Solidarity and Saacid.
The extremist Shebab imposes draconian rules on humanitarian workers and has blocked international staff working for aid agencies in its areas, but has allowed limited operations by Somali nationals.