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Somali Islamists ban aid groups, renewing famine concerns

Somalia's Islamist insurgency banned Western aid agencies from its territory, raising concerns that famine could return to parts of the northeast African nation.

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In this Nov. 21 photo, a resident walks through a camp for the internally-displaced run by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR in Dolo, Somalia.

Jason Straziuso/AP

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A little over a week ago, aid workers in Somalia were cautiously celebrating news that half of the areas previously classified as most at risk had improved and were no longer “in famine.”

But by Wednesday there were several warnings that those hard-won gains were under threat from renewed conflict and the decision by Somalia’s Islamist insurgency to ban most Western aid agencies from its territory. The developments have aid workers warning that famine may return in places.

Al Shabab, which is linked to Al Qaeda, said this week that 16 organizations, including most UN bodies, must leave because they were “fostering secularism” and were “amplifying the refugee crisis.”

They were “financing, aiding, and abetting subversive groups seeking to destroy the basic tenets of Islamic penal system” and “undermining the livelihoods and cultural values of the population,” the statement continued. 

It even claimed that agencies – all Western – were making Somalia’s refugee situation worse by “failing to implement durable solutions."

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