Millennium Post

Terrorists wrest aid money

The fact that terrorists mercilessly prey on the most innocent civilians and spread terror across the world is known; but that they also loot foreign aid money was not. Indeed, aid money ends up with the feared al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab which is making millions of dollars each year by exploiting foreign aid money sent to Somalia by the very western nations who, ironically, are trying to eliminate the terror group. Former members of al-Shabaab and Somali intelligence agents have said that the terror group is extorting thousands of dollars per day through roadblocks and taxes on merchants attempting to transport food and supplies to sell to internally displaced people in towns where they are concentrated. People who have fled their homes and are living in a sprawling camp in the central Somali city of Baidoa are screened by the UN and issued cash cards. Businessmen now truck food bought on the open market to places like Baidoa, where internally displaced people (IDPs) arrive every day. But, they must pay al-Shabaab, which controls the main road into the town, to move their goods. Former members of the terror group and Somali intelligence agents said that tolls taken from trucks and other vehicles at just two al-Shabaab roadblocks on Somalia's busiest road raked in thousands every day. The UN has estimated that a single roadblock generated about $5,000. The gouging is more subtle today than it was in the early 1990s, when local warlords deliberately starved hundreds of thousands of Somalis in order to profit from international aid money. 270,000 internally displaced people now live in Baidoa where, back then, a truck known as the Death Bus collected around 100 bodies a day, all of them skeletal from starvation. Until Western nations intervened, the warlords worked to sustain the famine in order to keep the aid money flowing into their coffers. Not too surprisingly, the UN fears that the ongoing drought will once again threaten Somalia with famine. The country's "army" is a 22,000-strong African Union (AU) contingent that has been protecting the fledgeling government in Mogadishu and working to wrest control of the south back from the al-Shabaab. But, it is withdrawing slowly and is expected to be out of the country in two year's time. Yet, the systems of corruption and manipulation of aid in Somalia have remained and have now been co-opted to finance a terrorist movement that controls about a third of the country and may become a magnet for ISIS jihadists on the run from their former caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
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