The militant group al-Shabab has reportedly raided offices of several humanitarian organizations in southern Somalia and issued a statement banning aid groups, including six U.N. agencies, from operating in areas controlled by the militants.
Armed militants stormed the office of UNICEF and several aid agencies, seized equipment and forcibly evacuated aid workers, news agencies say, noting that the raids appear to be coordinated. The New York Times says there were no reports of injuries to aid workers.
Following the raids, al-Shabab said it was banning organizations from operating in southern Somalia areas under its control. The banned groups include UNICEF, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization, the U.N. Population Fund, the U.N. Office for Project Services and the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit, which helps monitor the famine situation in the country.
Other humanitarian groups affected by the ban include the Danish Refugee Council, Norwegian Refugee Council, Norwegian Church Aid, Concern, Italian Cooperazione Internazionale, the German Technical Cooperation, Action Contre la Faim, Solidarity, Saacid and the Swedish African Welfare Alliance.
Al-Shabab accused the banned organizations of “illicit activities and misconducts.” Further, the group said it would immediately ban without prior warning any other organization “found to be supporting or actively engaged in activities deemed detrimental to the attainment of an Islamic State, or performing duties other than that which it formally proclaims,” the Agence France-Presse reports.
Senior U.N. organizations have strongly condemned al-Shabab’s raids and blanket ban, with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying the “brazen” actions prevented aid groups from delivering life-saving assistance to those in need.
“The Secretary-General demands that al Shabaab vacate the premises and return seized property to the affected agencies and NGOs,” according to a statement from Ban’s spokesperson. “He calls for the ban imposed today by Al-Shabaab against these humanitarian organizations to be lifted immediately.”
Valerie Amos, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, issued a similar appeal. Amos warned famine could return to some areas in southern Somalia if relief efforts there are hampered.
The United Nations has reported fragile progress against the spread of famine in parts of Somalia. It recently announced that three areas have emerged out of a state of famine.
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