Al-Shabaab keeps Somali ban in place

July 22, 2011 at 11:45 AM
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MOGADISHU, Somalia, July 22 (UPI) -- Al-Shabaab, the militant group that controls much of Somalia, said a ban on humanitarian aid agencies was still in place despite emergency appeals.

Much of the Horn of Africa is mired in one of the worst droughts in decades prompting aid agencies to declare a humanitarian emergency for war-torn Somalia.

Al-Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohammed Rage announced earlier in July that aid agencies would be allowed in the country provided they had "no hidden agenda" in Somalia.

The transitional government in Somalia is struggling to expand its control beyond a small portion of Mogadishu as it battles al-Qaida fighters in al-Shabaab bent on establishing an Islamic state.

U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order describing an "unusual and extraordinary" threat to U.S. national and foreign policy interests emanating from Somalia early this year.

The militant spokesman was quoted by the BBC as telling journalists in Mogadishu that many agencies were still banned in the country.

"The agencies were involved in political activities," he claimed.

The al-Shabaab official acknowledged the situation in the country was dire but said the severity of the crisis was exaggerated.

"There is drought in Somalia and shortage of rain but it is not as bad as they put it," he said.

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