A militant group has ordered three international organizations working in Somalia to close their operations.
Al-Shabaab, a group of Muslim extremist insurgents with ties to al-Qaida, said it barred World Vision International, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency and Diakonia from working in Somalia. The group accused the aid agencies of spreading Christian propaganda, news agencies report.
“Acting as missionaries under the guise of humanitarian work, the organizations have been spreading their corrupted ideologies in order to taint the pure creed of the Muslims in Somalia,” the militant group said in a statement as quoted by Reuters. “Along with their missionary work, the proliferation of corruption and indecency has become prevalent as a result of their presence.”
The militant group also warned other aid organizations not to assume the work of the three banned groups, The Associated Press says.
A spokesperson for World Vision Somalia said her organization was surprised by al-Shabaab’s orders, adding that members of the group have occupied World Vision offices in the towns of Baidoa, Wajid and Duale in southern Somalia. She denied the militants’ accusation that the aid group is proselytizing.
“World Vision is a Christian organization motivated by Christian values to help the needy in the society. While World Vision recognizes the need to remain impartial in responding to the needy, by policy World Vision is prohibited to proselytize in its work,” Amanda Koech said in a statement quoted by AP.
Koech explained that World Vision does not have international staff in southern Somalia. All World Vision employees in that part of the country were Somalis and most are Muslims, she said.
Al-Shabaab’s closure orders came a day after the United Nations and several other organizations expressed their intentions to return to Somalia. As Devex reported, the U.N. is planning to re-establish agencies in three Somali cities including in the capital city of Mogadishu.