The UN World Food Program (WFP) warned yesterday that mounting lawlessness was affecting its ability to deliver monthly food rations to Iraq's civilian population.
The WFP "is alarmed by the rise in security incidents affecting its food aid operation in Iraq over the past month. The agency has registered an increase in shootings, looting of storage facilities and attacks on trucks bringing food into southern Iraq," it said in a statement.
The agency, tasked with providing food rations to a population rocked by the US-led springtime war on Iraq following a decade of economic sanctions, worried about security at its storage facilities.
"Since June 10, there have been at least 12 incidents of looting and shooting in or near these facilities," the agency said.
Last month, the WFP pulled staff from its Al Hurriyah warehouse in Baghdad after hundreds of looters ransacked the facility.
The incident froze food distribution in Baghdad for more than a week, the agency said.
There have been at least five cases of looting in the northern city of Kirkuk in the last three weeks, including two attacks on WFP warehouses. On July 6, a warehouse in Mosul was hit by grenades, but there were no casualties.
"The same night, a WFP warehouse in Kirkuk was attacked. Warehouses in Nassiriyah and Basra have also been subject to looting," it said.
"In many instances, WFP is concerned that the guards are unwilling or unable to intervene and that they have insufficient training, motivation and equipment," it said.
WFP added that US and British troops have generally been supportive of efforts to stop the looting, although food convoys have been attacked crossing into southern Iraq from Kuwait.