Nairobi, 14 December 2009 (Somalilandpress) – United Nations experts investigating whether Somali businessmen are funneling aid money to terrorist groups have recently received death threats warning them to stop their work, according to United Nations officials.

A United Nations Security Council committee issued a statement on Friday in response to the threats, saying that it “deplores such acts of intimidation and interference.”

Millions of dollars are at stake, and many analysts say they believe that the Somali businessmen are desperate to derail the United Nations investigation because they fear they could lose lucrative contracts to transport food in Somalia, a war-ravaged country where foreign aid is one of the biggest businesses, along with piracy.

According to officials close to the investigation, several Somali businessmen, who have been working for years with the United Nations World Food Program to deliver emergency rations, may be diverting money to terrorist groups that are trying to bring down Somalia’s weak transitional government and possibly wage attacks on Western targets in Kenya. Concerns about these same Somali businessmen recently led the American government to delay food shipments to Somalia at a time when millions of Somalis are a few meals away from starvation.

A team of five experts hired by the United Nations Security Council has been intensely scrutinizing the businessmen over the past several months as part of a process to monitor the arms embargo against Somalia, in place since 1992, and issues connected to Somalia’s security and the delivery of aid. Preliminary results from the investigations, provided to The New York Times, indicate that several of the Somali contractors working for the World Food Program could face economic sanctions, including asset freezes, travel bans and the cancellation of multimillion-dollar contracts.

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A week ago, one of the experts who lives in Nairobi received a strange text message on his cellphone, written in broken English, that said: “Pliz friend of me come jacaranda hotel 9 oclok. nice imformationz of Somalia. good rafiki.”

(Rafiki is a Kiswahili word, commonly used in Kenya, that means friend.)

Twenty-six minutes later, the expert, who said he could not be identified because of the death threats, got a second text message, written in similarly bad English, saying: “Me i am nice friend to you. pliz do not go there to jacaranda hotel at 7 oclok. My friends to shoot you.”

The message identifies the expert’s car and where he lives. It ends: “kenya robber was give $3000 for shoots. look for corola white car.”

The two messages were sent from different phone numbers but the expert believes they were sent by the same person because of similarities like the spelling of “pliz” to mean please. The expert called them “quite a creative way to deliver a death threat.”

On Saturday, Matt Bryden, the coordinator of the five-member monitoring group, said, “We have received a variety of threats and pressures to influence our investigation, some of which have been very detailed and specific.”

Several members of the group are now protected around the clock and drive to work with Kenyan police officers.

Somali businessmen have been operating in a lawless, chaotic, anything-goes environment for the past 18 years, since Somalia’s central government collapsed. It is all too common for business feuds to turn into gun battles and for extortion and the mysterious, sudden death of business rivals to go unpunished.

But many analysts were surprised by the possibility that Somali businessmen would be bold enough to explicitly threaten a United Nations team in neighboring Kenya.

Source: New York Times