Somali rebels maintain aid ban

The al Qaeda-inspired Shebab rebels had appealed for help earlier this month.

Mogadishu: Islamist rebels in Somalia said on Friday that an earlier ban on specific aid agencies operating in the drought-struck regions they control remains in place, rejecting UN declarations of famine.

"Those earlier banned groups are not welcome to serve in our area of control," Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said on a broadcast on the Islamist radio Al Furqaan radio.

The al Qaeda-inspired Shebab rebels appealed for help earlier this month, saying they would lift a two-year-old ban on foreign aid groups in order to help Somalis suffering from a severe drought.

But on Thursday, they abducted the country`s newly appointed women`s minister, highlighting the challenges for foreign relief groups planning to resume operations in rebel areas.

The abduction came a day after UN officials officially declared that two regions in the south of the war-torn country had been hit by famine -- the southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions, both under Shebab control.

Bureau Report

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