updated 10/3/2008 3:05:26 PM ET 2008-10-03T19:05:26

Islamic insurgents in Somalia forced one Western aid group to suspend some operations and threatened another on Friday, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without basic health care.

The United Nations, meanwhile, estimated that more than 80 civilians have been killed in the capital alone during the past two especially bloody weeks. Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the U.N.'s humanitarian office in Geneva, also said Friday that more than 100 people were injured in the same period.

Somalia is torn between a growing Islamic insurgency and a weak and corrupt U.N.-backed government propped up by Ethiopian troops.

In recent months the insurgents have mounted a series of hit-and-run attacks on several towns and now hold Somalia's third-largest city.

CARE accused of 'crimes against Islam'
On Friday, a statement by spokesman Sheik Muqtar Robow accused Western aid agencies CARE and the International Medical Corps of committing "crimes against Islam and the jihad" and warned them to leave areas controlled by the Islamists.

He did not elaborate on why the two agencies had been singled out or what would happen if they did not leave.

"I am warning other agencies in Somalia to not get involved in areas outside their job," Robow said. "If they are found, they will face suspension of operations."

International Medical Corps' spokeswoman Margaret Aguirre said the agency suspended work in southern Somalia last week when insurgents looted four of its offices in Bakool and Bay regions. No staff members were hurt in the attacks.

"We're deeply concerned about the impact of these attacks on people who are already suffering," Aguirre said from the agency's head office in California.

370,000 served by one group
Its clinics in the affected region serve more than 370,000 people, 53,000 of them children under 5. Aguirre, citing security concerns, did not say how many staffers the agency has in Somalia.

CARE did not return phone calls seeking comment. Its Web site says it provides clean water, sanitation and health programs, and seeks to improve agricultural practices.

Both the Islamist insurgents and the U.N.-backed government they are fighting have threatened Western aid agencies before, although it is unusual for particular agencies to be singled out. Twelve aid workers have been killed this year alone and almost 20 have been kidnapped.

Even peacekeepers are targeted. On Thursday night, insurgents attacked a Burundian contingent of African Union peacekeepers, killing two civilians and injuring 19, said Ruqiyo Shafi'i, who lives near the A.U.'s south Mogadishu base.

African Union spokesman Barigye Bahoku said no peacekeepers died or were wounded in the attack.

Recent droughts and high food prices have added to problems in the Horn of Africa country, which has been without a stable government for more than 17 years. According to the U.N., nearly half of Somalia's 8.3 million people now need food and other assistance.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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