Ban slams Somalia UN offices looting

UNITED NATIONS: UN boss Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday condemned the looting of UN offices by hardline Shebab militiamen in two Somali towns and but said the world body would continue helping the lawless Horn of Africa country.

"The secretary general condemns the looting yesterday of UN offices in Somalia," Ban's spokeswoman Michele Montas said in a statement. "Such acts target the whole gamut of UN peace and humanitarian operations in Somalia.

"The UN is providing life-saving support to people in need throughout Somalia, and will continue to do all it can to help the country emerge from decades of violence," the statement added.

Monday, Somalia's hardline Shebab militia raided the offices of the United Nations Development Program, the UN Department of Safety and Security and the UN Political Office for Somalia in Baidoa and Wajid hours after they banned their operations on charges that they were "enemies of Islam and Muslims."

In response, the UN said it was temporarily suspending its humanitarian work in one of the two towns where the Islamists struck.

Tuesday, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes also made it clear that the United Nations was not backing away from Somalia, saying the suspension of its humanitarian work in Baidoa was only temporary.

"We simply cannot continue there until we replace that equipment," he noted. "We're not backing away from Somalia more widely and we hope to continue operations there despite these difficulties."

These difficulties are not new, he added, pointing to a recent attack on another UN agency compound, attacks on food convoys in Somalia and ships as well as killings, abductions and threats against aid staff.

The Al Qaeda-inspired insurgency has taken control of much of southern and central Somalia in relentless battles against the government and Ethiopian troops that ousted an Islamist movement of which they initially were a part.

Somalia is the UN's fourth biggest overall humanitarian operation.

Some 3.2 million Somalis -- nearly half the country's estimated population -- face a "humanitarian emergency or acute food and livelihood crisis," according to the world body.