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Somali Islamists Prevent Starved Christians From Receiving Food Aid

Washington, D.C. (August 15, 2011)–A famine in Somalia has resulted in the death of thousands of people and millions more in urgent need of food aid. Aid is reaching some affected areas but radical Islamists are controlling its distribution and preventing Christians from receiving help and causing many to starve to death.

Members of the radical Islamist group, Al-Shabaab, which is fighting to establish Sharia law across Somalia, are openly seeking to eliminate Christianity from the country. In the past few years, Al-Shabaab members have killed many Christians, including one Christian whose beheading was caught on film. [Warning: this video contains disturbing images]

“So far we are aware of 18 Somali Christians who have died of starvation in the last three months in the cities of Afgoye, Baidawa, and Kismayo. There are reports from other Al-Shabaab-controlled areas that more Christians are starving as they are denied of food aid or the opportunity to move to government-controlled territories where they can get help,” said a Somali church leader who is based in a neighboring country.

Christians in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu have a better chance of receiving food aid since the city is under the control of the internationally recognized transitional government of Somalia, but Christians in southern Somalia remain the most vulnerable group.

Speaking to ICC from Somalia, a leader of an underground church said, “Any Somali that the Islamists suspect to be a Christian or even a friend of Christians does not receive any food aid. However, denying us food aid is not really the worst thing they could do to us. These Islamists have previously killed many of our church members and they could kill more and get away with it.”

ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Jonathan Racho, said, “We are extremely concerned about the famine in Somalia. Al-Shabaab has exacerbated the plight of the Somali Christians by denying them food aid. Al-Shabaab’s actions have affected both Muslims and Christians, but Somalia’s Christian minorities are suffering the most because of Al-Shabaab’s senseless killings and intentional starvation. The international community must realize the vulnerability of this minority and take decisive action to alleviate their suffering.”