Al Qaeda-linked group sets up coronavirus care facility in Somalia

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Al-Shabab, the al Qaeda-linked extremist group based out of Somalia, has opened up a coronavirus care facility in the country, The Associated Press reported Friday.

“I am urging people with the disease symptoms to come to the medical facility and avoid infecting other Muslims,” Sheikh Mohamed Bali, a senior official in the group, said in a news broadcast on its radio arm Andalus, according to the AP.

The facility is located in a former United Nations building in Jilib, now a stronghold for the Somali insurgent group. The care center includes a 24-hour hotline as well as the necessary equipment to treat and isolate patients, according a facility employee who spoke with the news wire.

It is unclear how many cases the facility has handled so far.

Somali health officials have been warning for months that areas controlled by the extremist group are at great risk for the spread of COVID-19. Al-Shabab has declined help from the official Somali government in times of crises, including instances of drought.

Internal strife including years of conflict and poverty have rendered the country ill-prepared to handle a health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. Health experts in the country warn that cases in the country have been underreported.

Somalia has over 2,500 known cases of coronavirus and 85 deaths from it.