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MOGADISHU, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Al Shabaab rebels in Somalia have expelled the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from areas they control in country's south and centre, the rebels said on Monday.
ICRC has run programmes in the Horn of Africa nation for the last 30 years, mainly providing medical aid
It suspended food distribution to 1.1 million people in central and southern Somalia on Jan.12, saying that militants had blocked deliveries in parts of the famine-hit country.
"The International Committee of the Red Cross has repeatedly betrayed the trust conferred on it by the local population and, in the recent weeks, falsely accused the Mujahideen (Shabaab fighters) of hindering food distribution," al Shabaab said in a statement.
ICRC spokeswoman for Africa, Anna Schaaf, declined to comment.
ICRC's suspension of food distribution prompted a Somali government minister to say the humanitarian crisis could worsen. About 250,000 Somalis already live in famine conditions and a total of four million need aid, the United Nations says.
Al Shabaab accused ICRC, which was one of the last agencies working in rebel-held areas, of distributing expired food to weak women and children following a drought, putting them at risk from disease.
"A thorough inspection of ICRC warehouses and food depots throughout the Islamic Administrations governed by the Mujahideen has revealed that up to 70 percent of the food stored for distribution by the organisation was deemed unfit for human consumption," it said.
Some 2,000 metric tonnes of expired rations that were intended for distribution were burnt after the inspection.
Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Angus MacSwan