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A boy carries a bag containing clothes during the distribution of items to families around Wadajir district in Mogadishu, Somalia on July 13 2015.
Ilyas Ahmed/AMISOM
Environment

This Terrorist Group Just Banned Plastic Bags ... to Save Lives

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Al-Shabab is a violent terrorist organization, but their bizarre announcement to ban plastic bags ultimately shows the influence of the movement against single-use plastics, which are causing great harm to the planet, a concern of Global Goals 12-15. You can take action on this issue here.

Governments, grocery stores, and NGOs aren’t the only organizations concerned about plastic waste.

Terrorist groups can now be counted among those battling single-use plastics.

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In an audio recording on an affiliated website, the Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Al-Shabab banned plastic bags in areas that they control, according to The New York Times.

Take Action: Call on Governments and Business Leaders to Say No to Single-Use Plastics

Mohammad Abu Abdullah, the Al-Shabab governor in the Jubaland region of southern Somalia, declared that plastic bags “pose a serious threat to the well-being of humans and animals alike.”

The announcement has baffled analysts who follow Al-Shabab and those who are affected by the group’s violence.

Many people have mocked the move on Twitter and others have pointed out that Al-Shabab seems confused, banning humanitarian organizations, movies, and plastic bags while allowing murder, rape, and more.

Al-Shabab formed in 2006, has up to 9,000 active military members, and is based in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The group is responsible for killing thousands of people through suicide bombings, raids, abductions, and other tactics.

Read More: The Long, Strange Journey of a Plastic Bag

In October 2017, more than 300 people died in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu after two car bombs were detonated by Al-Shabab operatives. In 2016, Mogadishu experienced 46 terrorist attacks.

Al-Shabab’s decision to ban plastic bags seems bizarrely out of sync with their violent attacks, but it actually fits in with the group’s attempts to govern a caliphate.

And it’s not the first time that a terrorist group has advocated for environmental sustainability. In 2017, a Taliban leader called for the “beautification of the Earth” by planting trees.

Ultimately, the announcement by Al-Shabab shows the success of the movement against single-use plastics.

In recent years, more than 60 countries have enacted bans on single-use plastics and many more countries are weighing similar restrictions, according to the United Nations.

Read More: US and Japan Refuse to Sign G7 Pact Against Plastic Pollution

The movement is fueled by the growing awareness of the environmental harm caused by plastic, especially in marine environments.

Plastic has been shown to kill animals ranging from whales to coral and breaks down into small, toxic microplastics that are consumed in large quantities by marine creatures.

Each year, more than 8 million tons of plastic enter oceans each year, which is like dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into waters every minute.