Over the years, al-Shabab, a terrorist group in East Africa that has pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda, has banned music, cinemas, satellite dishes and humanitarian organizations.
This week, they added a new item to the prohibited list: plastic bags.
Residents of areas controlled by the terrorist group, which operates out of Somalia, will no longer be able to use plastic bags, out of respect for the environment.
The announcement — by a group better known for suicide attacks that have killed and maimed thousands — prompted a flurry of mocking memes on the internet, some calling al-Shabab the first eco-friendly terrorist organization.
The statement banning the use of plastic bags was published on Somalimemo.net, a pro-Shabab website that is believed to be run by the terrorist group’s media office. The website aired an audio recording from Mohammed Abu Abdullah, al-Shabab’s governor in the Jubaland region, who said that plastic bags “pose a serious threat to the well-being of humans and animals alike,” a statement that was repeated in a Twitter message posted on a Shabab-associated account.
The announcement was also broadcast on Radio Andalus, the group’s radio station.
Harun Maruf, the founder of the Investigative Dossier radio show in Somalia and the co-author of Inside Al-Shabaab, explained in a Twitter post: “The militant group has reportedly issued a general directive banning plastic bags, and gave environmental and health risks to the livestock as reasons for taking the move.”
He added, “Things that Shabab has NOT banned: Bombings, assassinations, targeting civilians.”
Mohammed Abdullaahi Ali, a medical student who lives in Mogadishu, the capital, was one of several Somalis who found the decision bizarre.
“I heard they banned plastic bags via social media,” Ali said in an interview. “I see it as a good decision, but they must ask themselves: Why do they also ban humanitarian workers from operating in Shabab-controlled areas?”
He added, “I don’t know why sanitation, and the health of the environment, is important but not the health workers.”