Somali insurgents ban UN mine agency

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Nairobi/Mogadishu_(dpa) _ Somali insurgent group al-Shabaab on Thursday said it was banning the United Nations Mine Action agency from operating in Somalia.

Al-Shabaab, which is battling to topple the weak Western-backed government, said in a statement that Mine Action was paying the salaries of government forces and "surveying and signposting some of the most vital and sensitive areas" under insurgent control.

Somalia is awash with mines from earlier conflicts with Ethiopia.

The insurgent group, which controls much of south and central Somalia, has already served notice to the UN World Food Programme to stop delivering food aid to millions of Somalis struggling with drought and the effects of the conflict.

Somalia has been embroiled in chaos since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Over 19,000 people have died in the current insurgency, which kicked off in early 2007 after Ethiopian forces invaded to oust an Islamist regime that ruled for six months in 2006. dpa ml ds

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