By Holly Watt and Tim Ross 6:30AM GMT 04 Feb 2011
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) had to suspend activities in southern Somalia after being manipulated by al-Shabaab, which is linked to al-Qaeda.
In a meeting last year with the UN ambassador Susan Rice, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the special representative for Somalia, said the WFP had been withdrawn “because it had become too reliant upon al-Shabaab and its system of pay-offs”.
The WFP suspended operations in the rogue state in January last year, saying that the safety of its staff was compromised in the region.
The programme had been supporting up to a million people in the region. Dozens of aid workers have been killed in the failed state.
Al-Shabaab, an Islamic group fighting to overthrow the Somalian government, controls much of south and central Somalia and part of the capital Mogadishu, where it has imposed a form of Islamic law. Mr Ould-Abdallah said the WFP’s “way of distributing assistance didn’t function in Somalia”.
Al-Shabaab had reportedly demanded that the UN agency remove all women from its jobs and pay $20,000 (£13,000) every six months for “security” in some of the regions it controls.
The WFP has denied claims that up to half the food aid to Somalia was being diverted to Islamist militants and corrupt contractors.
Somalia has been in turmoil since 1991 when its central government collapsed.