Washington (Alshahid)-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling on the Alshabab militant group to allow aid groups “unfettered” access to bring food assistance to the more than a million people facing famine in the part of Somalia they control.
At a press conference Thursday, Clinton said this would allow aid groups to save as many lives as possible. She said the militant group has made it very challenging to bring food into the regions under their control, for instance kidnapping aid workers and imposing taxes on those bringing in food.
Flanked by Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, Clinton told reporters it was especially “tragic” that the militants were preventing aid from reaching the most vulnerable, children, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“I call on Alshabab to allow assistance to be delivered in an unfettered way throughout the area they currently control so that as many lives as possible can be saved,” the chief US diplomat said.
US officials said they were maintaining sanctions against the militia, which controls some of the worst-hit parts of southern Somalia, but would fund reputable groups that take the risk to bring food into Alshabab controlled territory.
In reply to a reporter’s question, Baird said there were no plans to take military action against Alshabab.
“While we are deeply concerned about Alshabab’s actions in Somalia, at this time we are not contemplating military action. Obviously both countries have an experience from that some 16, 17, 18 years ago.”
Earlier this week, the Obama administration said it would not enforce rules banning material support for terrorist organizations to assure relief groups that they will not be prosecuted if some of their assistance or cash ends up in Alshabab’s hands. Groups were concerned that paying tolls or taxes that Alshabab often demands for access could place them in legal jeopardy in the US.
The United Nations says drought has left more than 12 million people across the Horn of Africa in need of food aid. The U.N. has appealed for $1.4 billion to help the victims.
On Wednesday, the U.N. declared a famine in three more regions of southern Somalia. It said famine conditions will likely spread to more areas and could last until December.