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It was just another day's payment for the roaming gunmen who rule Mo-ga-dishu.

Free-lance gunmen in heavily armed vehicles looted sacks of beans and sorghum just outside the capital city's port on Sunday - food meant for starving people.The heist took place in midafternoon and no attempt was made to hide it. In fact, the guards on top of the food trucks bantered with the gunmen.

The convoy of about 10 relief trucks stopped a quarter of a mile from the port when half a dozen armed vehicles drove up, many with artillery guns and each carrying teenagers waving rifles.

Three black sacks of beans were tossed off one vehicle and three white sacks of sorghum off another.

The operation was obviously well-planned: A man with a cart appeared instantly and trundled down the street with half the booty. The other three sacks were spirited into a compound, the entrance of which was right by the tree where the sacks were dumped.

U.N. officials appealed again over the weekend to local warlords to help curb the lawlessness that is hindering food shipments meant for the up to 2 million Somalis who are in danger of starving.

The United Nations has said port security is crucial because planes cannot deliver all of the 110,000 tons of food needed over the next 100 days to alleviate the famine.

Looting and banditry at Mogadishu port and the southern port of Kismayu have forced relief agencies to rely on more costly air shipments, but planes can only bring in about 20 tons daily.

On Sunday, U.N. Special Envoy Mohamed Sahnoun told one warlord that he will be responsible for thousands of starvation deaths if he refuses to allow more armed U.N. troops to protect relief shipments at ports.