An insurgent group in southern Somalia told international aid agencies on Tuesday to hand out all the food aid in the region, or leave the Horn of Africa nation.
Islamist al Shabaab rebels and allied groups control large swathes of southern and central Somalia while the government has little influence on the ground beyond a few blocks of the capital Mogadishu.
After a two-year Islamist insurgency and a prolonged dry spell, Somalia is wrestling with one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. There are a million internal refugees and more than a third of the population depends on food aid
Hussein Abdi Gheddi, the governor of middle Jubba region in southern Somalia and a member of al Shabaab, told the World Food Programme (WFP) and World Vision to hand out their food.
"We are telling them to leave the region, or else to distribute the food aid in the stores for the people in the region," Gheddi told Reuters by telephone from the town of Buale.
Gunmen killed two WFP workers in January and the U.N. agency said on Tuesday it was seeking new security commitments from armed groups to conduct food distribution.
"We are sending our teams around south, central Somalia asking for a security commitment that we will be allowed to operate and our staff will not be attacked," said WFP spokesman, Peter Smerdon, in neighbouring Kenya.
"We will not risk the lives of our staff if armed groups don't give us such commitments," he said.
WFP said it was in the process of distributing 57,000 tonnes of food to last 2.5 million people until mid March.
Last Mod: 17 Şubat 2009, 18:34