Man holding plastic bag in arid climate

Plastic bags are ‘serious threat to the wellbeing of humans’, says terrorist group

Image credit: Dreamstime

The Somali terror group Al-Shabaab has announced a ban on single-use plastic bags – as well as other environmental measures – due to the threat that they pose to the environment, people and animals.

The announcement was made on Al-Shabaab’s radio station, Radio Andalus. In the broadcast, the group’s local leader condemned waste plastic, saying that plastic bags “pose a serious threat to the wellbeing of humans and animals alike”. The group said that it would ban single-use plastic bags, although it did not provide details as to how this plan would be implemented.

An Al-Shabaab spokesperson said that details for how the ban will be enforced could be expected later. It is likely that fear of violent behaviour will play a part in ensuring that residents of these areas comply with the ban.

Plastic bags will join western music, cinemas, foreign aid and humanitarian agencies as forbidden entities in Al-Shabaab controlled areas.

The group has also announced that it would be banning the logging of indigenous trees, in order to protect the environment.

The jihadist group pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in 2012 and is known for conducting fatal attacks on thousands of people in East Africa. Although its hold on urban centres has slipped in recent years, it continues its strict hold on rural areas in Somali. The group made international headlines again in October 2017 when it was reported to be responsible for a bombing in Magadishu, Somalia, which killed at least 587 people. This was the third most deadly terrorist attack in recorded history.

“Other East African governments have banned plastic bags and this ban is Al-Shabaab’s attempt to show their people that they too can implement laws and govern like any legitimate ruler,” Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, told HuffPost UK.

“It’s quite ironic, though, that the same group has been involved in the banned ivory trade to fund its terror activities across the Horn of Africa.”

Despite the absurdity of such a murderous organisation taking environmental action for the safety of people and animals, this is not an unusual stance among extreme Islamist groups. In November 2016, the Yemen-based branch of Al-Qaeda criticised Barack Obama’s administration for being “all talk and no action” on climate change in a publication, decrying the US’ failure to deal with “reducing these deadly emissions [of carbon dioxide]”, and in February 2017, the Taliban encouraged Afghans to plant more trees in order to protect the environment and to honour Allah.

A number of other regions and countries – as well as many businesses – have made plans to ban single-use plastic bags, including Chile and the EU. In January, Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans to phase out single use plastics in the UK by 2042, a goal which was criticised for “lacking ambition”.

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