Islamic militants with alleged links to al-Qaida looted two United Nations compounds in southern Somalia and said they would ban three UN agencies from operating in areas they controlled.
The UN said al-Shabab militants had stolen emergency communication equipment from its compound in Baidoa city and two cars and some furniture from its compound in the town of Wajid. No injuries were reported.
The UN said yesterday that it was suspending its operations in Baidoa and continuing them in Wajid, which serves as the world body’s hub for humanitarian aid in the region.
Al-Shabab is battling to overthrow Somalia’s government and controls large areas of Mogadishu, the capital, and southern Somalia. The US State Department says the group has links with al Qaida, but al-Shabab denies that.
Somalia has not had a functioning government for 18 years since clan warlords overthrew a brutal dictator and then turned on each other, plunging the Horn of Africa nation into chaos and anarchy.
Poverty is widespread, and the country’s civilians rely heavily on the food, drinking water and medical treatment that relief agencies provide.
In May, al-Shabab militiamen occupied and looted the UN children’s agency’s compound in the southern Somalia town of Jowhar, which had been an operational hub of its humanitarian work in southern and central Somalia.
Over the past year several other aid agencies have suspended their operations in southern and central Somalia following looting of their equipment, the abduction of their staff by different groups, or just general violence.
Aid agencies that have suspended some of their Somalia operations include the International Medical Corps, CARE International and Doctors Without Borders.
Al-Shabab said yesterday it was banning three UN agencies – the UN Political Office for Somalia, the Development Programme, and the Department for Safety and Security – for allegedly working against the Somali Muslim population and against the establishment of an Islamic state.
The militants said all aid agencies must register with al-Shabab and would be closed if found to be “working with an agenda against the Somali Muslim population and/or against the establishment of an Islamic state”.
The UN responded with a statement saying: “The UN is reassessing the situation on the ground and is optimistic that the minimal conditions on the ground will be restored to allow the critical humanitarian work to resume in Baidoa and continue elsewhere in Somalia.”