|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives|
Islamists Held Trying to Flee From Somalia Into Kenya
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
MOGADISHU, Somalia, Jan. 17 — Several Somali Islamist fighters and possibly some of their leaders were arrested trying to escape into Kenya, Kenyan authorities said Wednesday, raising the possibility of a sticky asylum issue.
“We have detained a number of people, but we are still trying to determine their identities,” said Alfred Mutua, the spokesman for the Kenyan government.
Somali officials said Kenyan soldiers might have captured Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the second in command of the defeated Islamist forces.
According to Ismail Qasim Naji, a Somali general, Sheik Sharif’s briefcase was recently discovered at a jungle hide-out in southern Somalia.
“It had some important documents in it,” General Naji said at a news conference in Mogadishu, Somalia’s seaside capital. When asked what documents, the general replied, “Top secret.”
Ethiopian-led forces routed Somalia’s Islamist army last month after the Islamists attacked Baidoa, the seat of Somalia’s transitional government. The American military jumped in last week, bombing two areas in southern Somalia where the Islamist leaders and several terrorist suspects were believed to be hiding. A small contingent of American Special Operations soldiers have been deployed on Somali soil to help track down suspects and identify any bodies.
Since then, the Islamists have been caught between the advancing Ethiopian-led army and the heavily fortified Kenyan border near the Indian Ocean, which is being patrolled by American warships.
United Nations officials said the Kenyan government was deliberating whether to grant Islamist leaders political asylum, in the interest of bringing the fighting across the border to a close by allowing the Islamist leaders a graceful exit from the country. Somalia’s transitional government officials have agreed to give amnesty to rank-and-file fighters but said that they wanted the top Islamists handed over to them.
“Any members of the upper echelons of the Islamists who still pose a threat to our security will face due process of the law in Somalia,” said Abdirizak Adam Hassan, chief of staff for the transitional president, Abdullahi Yusuf. “As for terrorists, we will give them to the Americans or the U.N.”
In Baidoa, lawmakers on Wednesday ousted the speaker of Parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheik Adan.
Mr. Adan, an illiterate livestock trader, was recently one of the most powerful men in Somalia. But he fell out of favor with President Yusuf and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi after he tried to strike a peace deal between the Islamists and the transitional government. He also demanded that Ethiopian troops leave Somalia.
Members of Parliament accused him of being a traitor and voted 183 to 9 to remove him. A replacement has yet to be named.
Mr. Adan rejected the vote, telling a Somali radio station on Wednesday, “The country is illegally occupied by Ethiopia, and the M.P.s were probably forced to vote against me.”
Abukar Karyare contributed reporting from Baidoa, and Yuusuf Maxamuud from Mogadishu.
Source: The New York Times