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Almost half a million pounds of British taxpayer-funded aid and equipment has fallen into the hands of al-Qaeda, the Department for International Development has admitted
The terror group’s Somali franchise, al-Shabaab, “confiscated” the equipment from DfID contractors in multiple incidents over at least three months before any action was taken.
The admission is contained in the small print of the department’s latest accounts, which say that £480,000 worth of “humanitarian materials and supplies” was written off following repeated “confiscations” by al-Shabaab
Sir Gerald Howarth, a Conservative MP, said: “There is huge public concern at the relentless increase in overseas aid. Incidents like this, where British taxpayers’ money is diverted into people fighting against us, are not acceptable. DfID owes it to the public to exercise the utmost care with its money.”
DfID refused to specify what the lost supplies were, but an aid industry expert said the value suggested a “huge amount” of material that could keep the terrorists going for a “fairly long time”.
Aid industry sources said dried foodstuffs of that value could feed 20,000 people for more than a year. “It is surprising that no action was taken, which suggests that, at best, DfID was asleep to the loss of its property and, at worst, that its local partners were colluding with the terrorists,” the aid expert said.
DfID said its contractors had “no prior warning of the confiscations” and therefore “no time to prevent the loss by relocating goods”.
The accounts show the confiscations took place between November 2011 and February 2012 and from multiple locations. It said an investigation was made into the losses but did not reveal the findings.
A spokesman for DfID said: “DfID works in some of the most dangerous places in the world, including Somalia, because tackling the root causes of poverty and instability there ensures a safer world and a safer UK.
“Working in conflict-affected and fragile states carries inherent risk. DFID does all it can to mitigate against this but, on occasion, losses will occur.
“We work with our partners to design programmes that protect our investment from misuse or theft.”
The supplies were in warehouses seized by al-Shabaab and were later believed to have been set ablaze, they added.