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UN report: Banned Somali charcoal exports pass through Iran

AP  |  United Nations 

Banned charcoal exports from are thriving, generating millions of dollars a year for al-Qaida-linked extremists and often passing through to have their origins obscured, according to UN sanctions monitors.

Six years after the prohibited exports of prized Somali charcoal to try to choke off a money stream to al-Shabab, an estimated three million bags of the commodity are making their way out of the Horn of country each year, the monitors say in excerpts of a yet-unpublished report seen by

The main destinations are ports in Iran, where the charcoal already falsely labelled as coming from Comoros, or is transferred from blue-green bags into white bags labelled "product of Iran," the report says.

The bags are then loaded on Iranian-flagged ships and sent to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with certificates claiming as the charcoal's country of origin.

"has been a weak link in implementation" of the charcoal ban, the monitors said, adding that largely didn't cooperate with their investigation.

There was no immediate response to inquiries made Friday evening with the UN missions of Iran and the UAE.

The monitors credited the UAE with seizing some Somali charcoal but said the country didn't "substantively engage" with their questions about the shipments allegedly made through Iran.

There was no immediate response on Saturday from Somali officials.

Made from acacia trees, charcoal from is cherished in Gulf nations for the sweet aroma it lends to grilled meats and to tobacco burned in waterpipes.

It's also highly valued by the Somalia-based al-Shabab, which effectively taxes the charcoal at checkpoints, according to the UN monitors tasked with assessing compliance with sanctions on and

The monitors say the checkpoint payments yield at least USD 7.5 million a year for al-Shabab, which a year ago carried out the deadliest terror attack in sub-Saharan Africa's history.

The October 2017 truck bombing killed at least 512 people in Somalia's capital,

At a UN-sponsored summit in May on the illicit charcoal exports, Somali officials asked for international cooperation to stop them, saying they fuel insecurity by channeling money to extremists and worsen environmental degradation as trees are cut down in a country already vulnerable to drought, flood and famine.

"We need cooperation to implement the (sanctions) resolution and ensure the environmental, economic and human losses that happen because of illegal charcoal trade are curbed," told the gathering.

The excerpts of the monitors' report seen by the AP don't specify what individuals or groups may be involved in the illicit charcoal trade, aside from al-Shabab's de facto tax collectors.

The group controls parts of southern and and continues to target high-profile areas of the capital with suicide bombings.

The report says some of the fake origin certificates for the exported charcoal are outright forgeries, made without any official involvement from the relevant nations.

But others, such as the Iran certificates, are "evidently issued through official channels," the monitors said.

The monitors said other countries such as and "have allowed charcoal traffickers to exploit weaknesses" in their systems for issuing such certificates and "bear some responsibility" for the patchy enforcement of sanctions.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, October 13 2018. 18:05 IST