February 2, 2016 / 3:52 PM / 2 years ago

Kenya holds trucks carrying food aid into Somalia on militant fears

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The Kenyan authorities are holding three trucks carrying food aid on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP) at the border with Somalia because of suspicions the supplies could fall into the hands of militants, a senior regional official said on Tuesday.

The WFP said the trucks had all the required paperwork from Kenyan authorities and that the U.N. agency carefully monitors its shipments to make sure it reaches its intended recipients.

The Somalia-based al Shabaab group has launched frequent attacks in neighboring Kenya since late 2011 when Nairobi sent soldiers across the border to fight the militants.

Mohamud Saleh, regional coordinator or the top government official in the North Eastern region, said the vehicles were held on Monday in Mandera county along the border, awaiting reassurances from WFP Somalia that the food aid would not fall into the hands of the militants.

“We were a bit suspicious about where this food was going, because the last time we got information they took food across, the food was taken over by the terrorists, al Shabaab,” he told Reuters by phone.

“The food was meant for the most vulnerable in Somalia, those affected by drought, but I‘m told it went into the hands of al Shabaab. We are a bit concerned.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by more than two decades of conflict in Somalia, and more were forced out of their homes by a 2011 famine. Basic public services are lacking and there is limited access for humanitarian aid.

Challiss McDonough, senior regional spokeswoman for the WFP in Nairobi, said they were working with Kenyan officials to resolve the “unfortunate misunderstanding”.

“The three WFP-contracted trucks stopped in Mandera had all the required paperwork from Kenyan authorities,” she told Reuters, adding the organization monitors its food aid shipments to ensure they only help the vulnerable.

Al Shabaab banned WFP from areas it controls in Somalia in 2010, she said.

Saleh said the trucks will be released as soon as the WFP reassures the government the food will only get to the intended recipients.

“We want them to assure us the food goes to the right place because we don’t want our enemies to be fed by food from our territory,” he said.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri and Humphrey Malalo

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