World Food Programme worker killed by Somali gunmen

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Somali gunmen shot and killed a UN World Food Programme (WFP)-contracted truck driver, Ahmed Saalim, in southern Somalia, bringing to four, the number of drivers killed while delivering UN agency’s food assistance this year.

For reasons that remained unclear, Somali gunmen appeared to be targeting UN staff, including local Somalis, contracted by the global body.

The WFP said in a statement here Wednesday that Saalim was part of a convoy of WFP-contracted trucks carrying 602 metric tonnes of WFP food from Mogadishu to Bay and Bakool regions.

Saalim was shot when a fight broke out Monday between convoy escorts and militants at a check-point near the village of Leego in Lower Shabelle region..

Somalia, a country that has not known peace since the removal of military leader Siad Barre in 1991, has become an extremely dangerous country, where gun-totting militiamen kill, loot and hijack at will.

“WFP food is reaching many people but our drivers are daily risking their lives to deliver it,” said Peter Goossens, WFP Somalia Country Director.

Goossens pointed out that Somalia was becoming increasingly dangerous at the same time as the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance was on the rise.

WFP urged all parties to ensure the safe passage of humanitarian staff and assistance for the Somali people amid worsening insecurity in much of southern and central Somalia with killings and kidnappings of aid workers.

“We send our condolences to the family of Ahmed Saalim and appeal for these kill ings to stop,” Goossens said.

WFP has to double the tonnages of food assistance it brings into Somalia to feed an average of 2.4 million people per month for the rest of the year.

It still urgently needs the government to provide naval escorts for ships loaded with WFP food to protect them from piracy.

Ninety per cent of WFP food for Somalia is brought in by sea.

In late June, a frigate from the Royal Netherlands Navy ended its mission escort ing ships loaded with WFP food in April. Panapress.

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