US ready to test willingness of Somali insurgents

For two years, Somalian Shebab insurgents have curbed foreign aid groups from working in the region.

Washington: The United States said on Wednesday it is ready to test the word of Somali Islamist insurgents, who have appealed for aid in the face of a devastating drought affecting their country.

Washington is "very concerned" by the situation in the Horn of Africa and during talks on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked her team "to ensure that we don`t have another massive humanitarian catastrophe”, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

For two years Somalian Shebab insurgents, affiliated with al Qaeda, have curbed foreign aid groups from working in the region. On Wednesday the group launched an aid appeal to help the thousands of people affected by the drought.

"It`s incumbent on us now, all of the aid donors and the international community, to test whether they really are ready to let starving people get humanitarian aid," said a senior state department official. "Let`s see if we can take them at their word or if they`re going to again make this difficult."

Increasing attacks from Shebab forced the World Food Program to leave the country in 2010, an act that deprived food aid from reaching around one million people.

According to Save the Children`s US branch, more than nine million people in the Horn of Africa -- Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia -- are currently at risk of malnutrition.

The appeal comes after Tuesday`s announcement by the Obama administration that they have indicted a Somali national in a New York court on charges of providing material support to both the Shebab and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based branch of the Islamist terror group.

Bureau Report

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