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Somali Militants Send Displaced Families Back to Famine Zones


Internally displaced families wait to board trucks as they travel back to their home regions from Ala-yasir camp closed by the al Shabaab militias, in Lower Shabelle, 50 km (31 miles) south of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, October 15, 2011.

Internally displaced families wait to board trucks as they travel back to their home regions from Ala-yasir camp closed by the al Shabaab militias, in Lower Shabelle, 50 km (31 miles) south of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, October 15, 2011.

A Somali doctor tells VOA that al-Qaida-linked militants have forcibly dismantled one of the biggest camps for displaced people near Mogadishu.

The doctor said Sunday al-Shabab militants loaded more than 4,300 families into trucks and sent them back to the areas they had fled.

The doctor said al-Shabab had decided to dismantle the camp overnight for military reasons. He said each family was sent home with an aid package that included 20 kilos of sugar, rice and cooking oil, and about $30.

A separate report said a man claiming to represent al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had distributed aid at the same camp a day earlier. The al-Qaida representative said he gave out food, clothing and Qurans.

The Ala Yasir Camp is in the famine-stricken Lower Shabelle region, an area under Shabab control.

Aid groups say more than 12 million people across the entire Horn of Africa region are in need of food assistance after an extended drought. But they said al-Shabab has hampered and blocked aid distribution in the parts of Somalia under its control.

The group has banned most foreign aid groups from its territory, and denies that the areas under its control are experiencing a famine.

Al-Shabab seeks to topple the U.N.-backed transitional government and impose a strict form of Islamic law across Somalia. It has lost ground over the past year to African Union and Somali government forces.

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