The head of the U.N. emergency food distribution program in Somalia, who was arrested earlier this week, is being investigated for terror links, according to government officials who add that his organization was operating without the proper consent of authorities. The U.N. World Food Program says it has yet to receive an official explanation about why its representative is being detained. Sarah Simpson reports from Nairobi that the issue has forced a suspension of desperately needed food aid in the beleaguered Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Somalia's government says the head of WFP's operation in Somalia is being investigated for selling emergency food aid on Mogadishu markets and giving the profits to Islamic terrorist outfits operating in the country. Senior Presidential Adviser Adirizak Adam Hassan outlined the allegations in an interview with VOA.
"Selling food in the market that was destined for the Somali destitute population and siphoning that money to his terror connections so that they can keep on fighting in Somalia," said Hassan.
Somali Interior Minister, Mohamed Gama Dheere, also told VOA by telephone from Mogadishu Friday, that the arrest of WFP chief, Idris Osman, was linked to WFP's failure to distribute food aid through proper government channels.
The WFP says it has yet to receive an official explanation as to why Osman is being held and continue to demand his immediate release.
As many as 60 soldiers stormed WFP's offices in Mogadishu Wednesday when they seized Osman. Government officials initially denied soldiers were involved and blamed militants for the incident.
On Monday WFP had resumed crucial food distributions, after a three-month suspension due to insecurity, using 42 mosques as distribution centers. Analysts say that WFP's connection with the mosques could have prompted the arrest though WFP maintains that the government was fully aware of their plans.
The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia is battling an Iraq-style Islamic Insurgency in the capital where Somalia's humanitarian crisis has reached its most critical level.
Humanitarian workers warn that increasing levels of violence are seriously hampering aid efforts.
WFP's food aid distributions are once again suspended leaving Somalis struggling with rising food prices and growing hunger. More than 15 percent of all Somali children suffer acute malnutrition, say WFP.
The World Health Organization has separately warned of a looming cholera outbreak in Somalia's desert south. Just three months ago cholera killed over 1,000 Somalis and struck over 35,000 more.