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In Somalia, UN charcoal purchases could be funding Al Shabab terror group

A UN contract to buy charcoal for African Union troop kitchens in Somalia may indirectly be funding the country's Al Qaeda-allied Islamist army, the Monitor has learned.

By Correspondent / September 21, 2012

Peacekeepers from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) stand guard after capturing the former private Elmaan seaport from Al Shabab insurgents without resistance, 19 miles east of Mogadishu, September 4.

Feisal Omar/Reuters

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Nairobi, Kenya

A United Nations contract to buy charcoal for African Union troop kitchens in Somalia is believed indirectly to be funding the country's Al Qaeda-allied Islamist army, The Monitor has learned.
 
Al Shabab pays for weapons and fighters with the monthly $1.25 million it earns from taxing traders and from the export of charcoal, trade that was banned by both President Obama in July and a UN Security Council Resolution adopted in February.
 
The business has become the group’s “most lucrative source of income,” according to the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.

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Since April, the UN has been buying 52 tons of charcoal a week for the kitchens of peacekeeping forces in Mogadishu, and one Somalia expert says it is “highly unlikely” that the deal is “not at least indirectly benefiting” the terrorists. 
 
The contract, worth close to $1 million annually, also directly spurs the destruction of southern Somalia’s last remaining tree cover, worsening conditions that cause drought.

The deal began in April, said the United Nations Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA), the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, meaning more than 1,100 tons of charcoal has so far been delivered and an estimated 5,500 trees have been felled.
 
A spokesman for UNSOA, headquartered in Kenya, said he was “unable to confirm” that supplies did not come from Kismayo, Al Shabab’s remaining stronghold and the epicenter of Somalia’s charcoal trade.

AMISOM forces this week closed in on the port city ahead of an expected offensive to push the Islamists out. Senior commanders are said to have fled already, and 10,000 civilians have also left, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported Friday.
 
The Monitor has seen an UNSOA purchase order for $17,722.50 for 52,125kg (about 115,000 lbs.) of charcoal due for delivery on Aug. 31, among the most recent of the deliveries. 

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