Kenya shuts Somali-linked money transfer firms – BBC News

Cash in Somalia

Remittances to Somalia from around the world are estimated to be worth around $1.6bn a year

Kenya’s government has ordered the closure of 13 money transfer firms to prevent militant Islamists from using them to finance attacks, the interior minister has told the BBC.

The bank accounts of 86 individuals and “entities” had also been frozen, Joseph Nkaissery added.

Most of those targeted are believed to be Somalis and Muslims.

An assault by the Somalia-headquartered al-Shabab group killed 148 people at Kenya’s Garissa University last week.

Kenyan officials have repeatedly accused Somalis in the country of colluding with the militants.

Nearly 500,000 refugees are in the country – many of whom fled decades of conflict and drought in Somalia.

‘Lifeline for Somalis’

Somalis say most of them are law-abiding citizens of Kenya, and they have also bore the brunt of al-Shabab’s insurgency.

Al-Qaeda linked al-shabab recruits walk down a street on March 5, 2012 in the Deniile district of Somalian capital, Mogadishu, following their graduation

Al-Shabab carried out its bloodiest attack in Kenya at the university in Garissa

They have condemned the government’s crackdown as “blanket punishment” of the community.

Somalis around the world rely heavily on the informal money transfer firms, known as “hawalas”, to do business and to send cash to relatives because of the almost non-existent banking sector in Somalia.

There have been a similar crackdown on the companies in the UK and US.

The United Nations estimates Somalis in the diaspora send home about $1.6bn (£1.1bn) annually, significantly more than foreign aid.

More than 40% of Somalis receive remittances, the bulk of which are used for basic needs, including food, clothes, medicine and education, according to a UN survey.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since the fall of Siad Barre’s government in 1991, and has been hit by religious and clan conflicts.

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