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How Western aid money funds world terrorism

The Week logo The Week 13/02/2018 Elliott Goat
How western aid money funds world terrorism © Albert Gonzalez Farran/AFP/Getty Image How western aid money funds world terrorism

With Oxfam in crisis after it was revealed staff in Haiti used prostitutes, CNN has uncovered evidence that Western aid money is being used to directly fund terrorist groups.

A long-running investigation has revealed that money given directly by the United Nations to people displaced by conflict and famine in Africa is ending up in the hands of al-Qa’eda affiliate al-Shabaab.

Former members of the group and Somali intelligence agents have described how it is making thousands of dollars a day, amounting to millions of dollars a year, through extortion at road blocks and taxes on merchants trying to transport food and supplies to displaced people.

According to one former al-Shabaab ‘tax collector’ who now works for the security services, the terror group would take around $3 per bag of rice delivered by aid agencies.

Western aid agencies have a troubled history in the region. In the 1990s, some paid warlords to gain access to hundreds of thousands of people who had been deliberately starved.

This strategy only made matters worse, as warlords worked to keep the famine going in order to keep aid money flowing.

The practice was only halted after intense international pressure forced Western nations to intervene militarily.

Yet, 25 years on from the infamous Black Hawk Down incident, which cost the lives of 18 US servicemen and led to the eventual withdrawal of the US humanitarian mission, “the systems of corruption and manipulation of aid in Somalia remain, 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”, reports CNN.

It is also far from an isolated incident. Earlier this year, the US announced it was withholding $225m (£166m) in aid from Pakistan over allegations the county was using the money to fund state-sponsored terrorism.

Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said there were “clear reasons” for stopping the payment, adding that Pakistan had “played a double game for years”.

The British government has also been accused of indirectly funding terrorist groups. A BBC Panorama investigation last December found taxpayers’ cash was being diverted to extremists in Syria.

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