Al-Shabaab bans 16 aid agencies

The Somali militant group al-Shabaab yesterday banned 16 aid groups – including a half-dozen UN agencies – from central and southern Somalia.

The ban is likely to seriously affect hundreds of thousands of people. A year-long drought has wiped out crops and herds of animals in the region, killing tens of thousands of people over the past six months and forcing tens of thousands more to flee as refugees. The al-Qa'ida-linked militant group's decision seemed to be rooted in the belief that aid groups are serving as spies for outside countries or as vehicles to undermine support for al-Shabaab's harsh and strict interpretation of Islam.

Witnesses in the towns of Beldweyne and Baidoa said armed, masked men entered aid offices yesterday and seized equipment. The UN was preparing a statement in response to al-Shabaab's ban but did not have an immediate comment.

Al-Shabaab said in a statement that a "meticulous year-long review and investigation" had been carried out by what it said was a committee called the Office for Supervising the Affairs of Foreign Agencies. The committee documented in a report "the illicit activities and misconducts of some of the organisations". AP