Taxpayer-funded humanitarian aid worth £480,000 was captured by al-Qaeda-linked militants as they rampaged through southern Somalia, it has emerged.
The supplies were in warehouses seized by al-Shabaab and they were later believed to have been set ablaze, the Department for International Development (DfID) said.
Details of the incidents appeared in DfID’s annual accounts, which stated that there was no prior warning of the attacks and its partner organisations in Somalia were unable to move the supplies.
According to DfID, the property was not stolen directly from its stores.
The loss, out of more than £80million of aid allocated for Somalia in 2012-2013, appears in this year’s accounts because the investigation was only completed in the past 12 months.
Sir Gerald Howarth, a Conservative MP, told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘There is huge public concern at the relentless increase in overseas aid.
‘Incidents like this, where British taxpayers’ money is diverted into people fighting against us, are not acceptable. DfID owes it to the public to exercise the utmost care with its money.’
A spokesman for the department said: ‘DfID works in some of the most dangerous places in the world, including Somalia, because tackling the root causes of poverty and instability there ensures a safer world and a safer UK.
‘Working in conflict-affected and fragile states carries inherent risk. DfID does all it can to mitigate against this but, on occasion, losses will occur.
‘We work with our partners to design programmes that protect our investment from misuse or theft.’
At the end of last year an African Union force, fighting alongside Somali government troops, forced al–Shabaab from key towns in southern Somalia though they remain powerful in rural areas.
Despite infighting and being hunted by US drones, the extremists remain a potent threat, and continue to launch car bombs and assassinations