Islamist militants reinstate relief ban in parts of Somalia
Group describes western help as 'Western spies and Christian crusaders'
In a move sure to leaves countless thousands starving without food and
water in one of the world's most devastated places, Islamist militants
in Somalia have reneged on a pledge to allow foreign aid agencies to
operate in famine and drought-struck regions in the nation.
Al-Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamud Raage has denounced western aid to Somali refugees as the work of 'Western spies' and 'Christian crusaders.'
Raage's announcement has reversed his earlier pledge this month that militants would allow relief groups to operate in areas under their control. Al-Shabaab had originally banned foreign aid organizations from providing aid in southern Somalia in 2009, denouncing them as "Western spies" and "Christian crusaders."
Raage has accused the groups offering food to refugees of having a political agenda in declaring a state of famine in Somalia. "The U.N. said that there is famine in Somalia. That is not true. It is a lie and they are politicizing the issue," he said. "We only have drought in Somalia, not famine."
Agencies that were included in the ban were the United Nations Development Program, World Food Program and CARE International. The World Food Program has said that a new dialogue, but not negotiations are under way with the group.
Aid groups issued an appeal this week for international help, saying Somalia faces a famine that has at least left half of the population in dire need.
Somalia is suffering through its worst drought in 60 years, sending tens of thousands walking for days into the nations of Kenya and Ethiopia in search of food and water.
"Nearly 3.7 million people are now in crisis," United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
Aid agencies estimate that 10 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda and Somalia are at risk of famine.
Conflict in Somalia is adding to the problem as government forces battle militants in the capital of Mogadishu. The Horn of Africa nation has not had an effective government for two decades.
© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Somalia, militant Islamists, withdrawal of aid, refugees
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