Al Qaeda militants pillaged British taxpayer-funded aid worth almost £500,000, the Department for International Development has admitted.

The Government said that a Somali-based cell of Al Qaeda, known as al-Shabaab, plundered the vital humanitarian aid and equipment from approved contractors.

The loss was hidden in the small print of a recent set of Department for International Development (DfID) accounts which revealed ‘the theft’ of supplies worth £480,000 between November 2011 and February 2012.

 
 
Loss: It is believed the supplies were stolen by Al-Shabaab, the Somali-based cell of Al Qaeda, and burnt

Loss: It is believed the supplies were stolen by Al-Shabaab, the Somali-based cell of Al Qaeda, and burnt

It is understood that the supplies were stolen or destroyed in November 2011 when al-Shabaab went on the rampage through an area where some of DFiD’s local partners had a warehouse.

The report singles out al-Shabaab for blame and states: ‘DfID partners had no prior warning of the confiscations being carried out and therefore had no time to prevent the loss.’

A DfID spokesman added: ‘We work 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.

‘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.’

Questions: Aid workers struggled to deliver supplies to thousands of Somali refugees during the humanitarian crisis in 2011

Questions: Aid workers struggled to deliver supplies to thousands of Somali refugees during the humanitarian crisis in 2011

More than 13 million people were reliant on humanitarian aid during the Horn of Africa crisis in November 2011. Starving people were dying of malaria and cholera and heavy rains made it impossible for aid workers to deliver supplies.

The disclosure that so much material went missing will raise fears that the Government is not doing enough to protect aid supplies. Ministers have been under increasing pressure to justify a decision to protect overseas aid from spending cuts.

British aid is due to reach about £11 billion by 2015 to meet the Government’s promise that spending should be 0.7 per cent of gross national income. Critics say the 0.7 per cent figure encourages wasteful spending to meet the target.

Last night DfID was not able to confirm what sort of supplies had been lost in Somalia but suggested that they were burned by al-Shabaab rather than stolen.

 

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