MOGADISHU, Somalia, July 23 (UPI) -- Islamist rebels in Somalia say they didn't lift a ban on all aid groups attempting to bring food to a region where thousands of people are starving to death.
Al-Shabaab, which the Untied States considers to be a terrorist organization, controls much of southern Somalia, and it said earlier this month it would let all humanitarian groups provide assistance during the drought that has left tens of thousands of Somalians dead, The Guardian reported.
Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said Friday the ban on specific agencies remains in effect. Among the banned groups is the United Nation's World Food Program.
"Those earlier banned groups are not welcome to serve in our area of control," Rage said Friday.
Rage also said Western organizations are making the situation in Somalia appear worse than it actually is.
The region is in the midst of back-to-back droughts and 11 million people are in urgent need of food assistance, officials with the World Food Program said.
The U.N. this week declared famine in two regions, Lower Shabelle and Bakool, both of which are largely under insurgent control, the report said.
In a media briefing, Rage accused the United Nations of ulterior motives -- and of spying. He also said there is no famine.
"We say [the U.N. declaration] is totally, 100 percent wrong and baseless propaganda," Rage said at the briefing in Mogadishu. "Yes there is drought, but the conditions are not as bad as they say. They have another objective and it wouldn't surprise us if they were politicizing the situation."