Somalia: Al-Shebab Bans Red Cross Aid Work

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Somalia's Islamist Al-Shebab rebels have banned the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from operating in parts of the country it controls.

The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shebab controls large parts of south and central Somalia. In a statement issued by the rebel group, it has decided to fully terminate the contract of the ICRC, alleging that the Committee had falsely accused the mujahideen of hindering food distribution and that it had handed out food that was past the expiry date to the civil war-stricken Somalians. The group said 70 percent of the food it had inspected in ICRC warehouses was unfit for human consumption, and that it had since destroyed nearly 2,000 tonnes of expired rations.

Despite being offered unrivalled access to all the regions governed by the Mujahideen in south and central Somalia, the International Committee of the Red Cross has repeatedly betrayed the trust conferred on it by the local population, the statement from the rebels said.

The Red Cross was one of only a few international agencies still able to operate in Somalia after al-Shebab banned 16 other groups last November. On Jan. 12, the Red Cross announced it had temporarily suspended a key food distribution program in Somalia, which helps 1.1 million people. The group said it was not being permitted to distribute food supplies by local authorities in the areas ruled by al-Shebab.

The UN has appealed for $1.5bn to fund relief programmes this year, and officials have warned that any delay could be catastrophic.

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