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Prominent Somali elder says Al-Shabaab lifts ban on aid agencies
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21:46, October 22, 2008

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The Somali Islamist group, which last month banned the operation of two aid agencies and gave warning to the other humanitarian organizations working in areas they control, have rescinded their decision after talks with local elders, the leader of the influential Hawiye clan elders said Wednesday.

"Al-Shabaab leadership have accepted our advice to allow aid agencies to work where ever they want in southern and central Somalia," said Mohamed Hassan Haad, leader of Hawiye clan, the largest in Somalia.

"They (Al-Shabaab leadership) have told us that they will not prevent aid agencies from giving food aid to the needy and that they have never harmed aid workers before."

Haad told a news conference in the capital, Mogadishu, that aid agencies were now "free" to operate where they want in south-central Somalia "unhindered."

He said the Islamist group has also allowed the operation of new aid agencies that have not previously worked inside Somalia to come and help Somali people "who are in need of humanitarian assistance."

Al-Shabaab also withdrew its ban on airline using the airport in Mogadishu after pressure from the revered elders of Hawiye clan.

Since the ban on airlines was issued last month, nearly 200 civilians were killed and more than 300 others wounded as a result of heavy exchange of artillery between Al-Shabaab fighters attacking the airport and African Union forces guarding the facility.

Early this month the Al-Shabaab Islamist movement said it banned Care International and International Medical Corps (IMS) from operating in areas they control in south Somalia. The group accused the two aid agencies of "anti-Islamic activities."

Al-Shabaab has also issued "warning" to other aid agencies working in south Somalia where the group controls.

Two local UN aid workers have been killed in south Somalia since the ban and warning against aid agencies were issued by the movement which is in the United States list of international terror organizations.

Aid agencies have scaled down their operations in south-central Somalia since violence against aid workers increased.

Local and international aid agencies have recently warned of escalating humanitarian situation in Somalia where, they said, nearly 3.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.


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