MOGADISHU- Somalia's prime minister has ordered all aid agencies working in the lawless Horn of Africa nation to register with the new government for their own safety.

The country is suffering one of the world's worst humanitarian catastrophes. A two-year Islamist rebellion has killed more than 16,000 civilians, driven another 1 million from their homes and left about 3 million dependent on food aid.

Complicating operations for aid workers, large parts of south and central Somalia are under the control of hardline al Shabaab insurgents and allied Islamist fighters.

Al Shabaab, which Washington accuses of close ties to al Qaeda, asked international humanitarian organisations last week to register to carry out operations in its territory.

But a spokesman for Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said late on Friday that no aid groups would be allowed to work in the capital Mogadishu or anywhere else without getting the government's approval first.

From now on, we will not let any aid agency carry out activities without notifying the government. We want to know what sort of help they are giving people and where, the spokesman, Abdukadir Mohamud Wallayo, told reporters.

The country has now a functioning government. If aid workers are harmed, the Somali government will be held responsible.

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a former Islamist rebel, was elected by lawmakers at U.N.-led talks earlier this year.


He and Sharmarke now face the daunting task of trying to establish a new administration and national security force, while cajoling several disparate guerrilla factions to back their efforts in the interests of peace.

A senior humanitarian source in neighbouring Kenya said the new order should not pose much of a problem to operations.

What we need is for all parties in Somalia to be committed to the safe and efficient delivery of the humanitarian supplies that are so badly needed by so many people, the source said.

Unidentified gunmen have killed and abducted several local aid workers in recent months, sharply curtailing the ability of relief groups to help desperate Somali communities uprooted by fighting and plagued by drought and disease.

Doctors say acute diarrhoea has killed 35 people, mostly children, in the last week west of Mogadishu. [ID:nL2245466]

In the latest violence, at least two worshippers died and several others were wounded when heavily armed attackers targeted a mosque late on Friday in the central town of Galkayo.

Three masked men stood at the door and indiscriminately opened fire. Then they escaped and vanished, Aweys Ali Said, Galkayo's vice chairman, told Reuters by telephone.

I am sure this evil act was planned somewhere else. Our citizens here are not trained and indoctrinated to kill people in mosques. We are investigating the matter.