US food airlift to Somalia begins despite concerns over security

Mark Huband in Mogadishu

The Guardian, 28 August 1992

UNITED States air force planes arrive today in the northern Somali town of Belet Weyne to mark the start of a huge food airlift to towns within the famine-stricken country. American and United Nations officials said yesterday.

Further flights will take food aid to relief agencies working in the towns of Baidoa, Bardera and Hoddur.

The US plans to bring 145,000 tonnes of food to Somalia, but so far little has reached Kenya for shipment. Most is not expected to arrive until the beginning of the new US fiscal year in October, according to US officials.

Concerns remain about the security of food once it has been unloaded from the C-130 transport planes, which will be accompanied by troops to guard the aircraft and the crews. The head of the US relief mission, Brigadier-General Frank Libutti, told reporters he was sure a ceasefire agreed in March would hold and that the airlift could go ahead.

“I am convinced the situation now is safe for starting the airlift. If there is any trouble on the ground before we go in, we will abort the mission as my paramount concern is the safety of my troops,” he said.

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