Red Cross Denies al-Shabab Accusation of Distributing Spoiled Food to Somalis

Posted February 2nd, 2012 at 3:45 am (UTC-5)
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The International Committee of the Red Cross is denying accusations by a Somali insurgent group that it distributed spoiled food to aid recipients in southern Somalia.

Earlier this week, al-Shabab announced it was permanently shutting down Red Cross operations in areas that it controls, accusing the aid group of handing out food that was “unfit for human consumption.”

In a statement Thursday, the Red Cross acknowledged that nearly 1,000 tons of food intended for distribution was found to have deteriorated after being exposed to moisture and heat. But it denied that any of the spoiled food was handed out, saying it was destroyed after inspection.

The aid group said it regrets al-Shabab's decision, but says it remains committed to helping Somalia overcome its humanitarian crisis. It says it was able to distribute more than 17,000 tons of rice, beans and oil to more than 1.2 million people in central and Somalia before al-Shabab terminated the operation.

In its statement Monday, al-Shabab said the Red Cross had “betrayed the trust” of local officials and falsely accused the group's fighters of “hindering food distribution.”

Earlier this month, the Red Cross formally suspended operations in al-Shabab areas of southern Somalia because local authorities had blocked the delivery of food.

Millions of Somalis are dependent on foreign aid after years of conflict in the Horn of Africa country and a severe regional drought.

The ICRC was one of the few international agencies still operating in al-Shabab territory.

The Islamist group al-Shabab is fighting to keep hold of its territories in southern and central Somalia in the face of military operations by Ethiopia, Kenya, the African Union and the U.N.-backed Somalia government.