It’s clear — we’ve entered a weird part of the Matrix.

A Group of Somali refugees gathers behind barbed wire fence to get water from a well. The well was drilled by the Indian Army to provide the refugees on Baidoa, Somalia with fresh water. Many areas of Somalia are suffering from environmental issues such as water shortages. Image credits: US Forces.

Al Shabaab, a jihadist fundamentalist group active in Somalia has reportedly banned the single use of plastic bags, because of ‘threat to people and livestock’. The terrorist group, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, has also banned the logging of rare trees.

The announcement was made on a broadcast on the jihadist-operated Radio Andalus last week. A regional leader by the name of Mohammed Abu Abdullah said that plastic bags are a “serious” threat and will be forbidden in the area where Al Shabaab operates. It’s not clear how the ban will be enforced, but if we’re judging by previous events, Al Shabaab’s indiscriminate use of violence will likely be sufficient to convince most civilians to follow the ban.

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Although it seems surprising, it’s not the first time Al Shabaab and al-Qaeda has been vocal about environmental issues. In 2017, Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzad urged Afghans to plant more trees because they play an “important role in environmental protection, economic development and beautification of earth” as well as honoring Allah.

Both Somalia and Afghanistan suffer greatly from water shortages and deforestation. Exacerbated by decades of war, the effects of these environmental problems have been devastating for the population.

This goes to show that sometimes, even bad groups can have good ideas. In any reasonable view, this doesn’t mean that terrorism and environmentalism have something in common. But the realization that the problem is so big that terrorist groups are trying to tackle it is striking.