Wed, Jul 22, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Islamic militants raid UN compounds in Somalia


Islamic insurgents with alleged links to al-Qaeda looted two UN compounds in southern Somalia, and announced they would ban three UN agencies from operating in areas the militants control.

The UN confirmed that 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 on Monday 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 and southern Somalia. The US State Department says the group has links with al-Qaeda, 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. In May, al-Shabab militiamen occupied and looted the UN children’s agency’s compound in the southern 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 or the abduction of their staff by different groups or just the general violence.

Al-Shabab issued a statement on Monday saying it was banning the UN Political Office for Somalia, the Development Program and the Department for Safety and Security for allegedly working against the Somali Muslim population and against the establishment of an Islamic state. The insurgents said the groups can no longer operate in areas al-Shabab controls.

The UN responded with a statement saying it was “reassessing the situation ... and 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.”

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