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Somalia: Top Militia Commander Arrested
Nairobi, January 17, 2007 – An official of the Union of Islamic Court has been arrested in Garissa as hundreds of fleeing immigrants from Somalia camped at the closed border.
Reports indicated that Sheikh Ahmed Sharif Sheikh, believed to be second in command to Sheikh Hassan Aweys, was captured near Dadaab Refugee Camp.
It was claimed the Islamist commander was seized at a roadblock in Damajale location heading to the United Nations High Commissioner for refugee camps in Dadaab division.
Other sources claimed that the Islamist leader was picked by Kenyan authorities and briefly put in custody at the UNHCR sub-office.
Other reports, however, alleged that the Islamist leader voluntarily surrendered to Kenyan officials at the border and requested for asylum status through the refugee agency.
Although Sharif reportedly resigned from the command of the defeated UIC, he was perceived to be the most influential and powerful member of the militia force.
He was also the head of the eight-man decision making committee at the helm of the religious uprising that dethroned the interim Somalia Transitional Federal Government from southern and central parts of the country.
Garissa DC , Mr. Joseph Imbwaga, said rumors over the arrest were rife in town, but promised to brief reporters after getting in touch with officials on the ground.
Although the courts gained overwhelming public support at the initial stages, some moderate Muslims felt oppressed when the justice mechanism outlawed consumption of miraa, a favorite pass time stimulant.
Mid-last year Sharif stepped down for Sheikh Aweys following the union’s victory before it was overrun by Ethiopian forces last month.
Imbwaga told journalists at his office that Garissa OCPD, Mr. Johnstone Limo, had traveled to the refugee camp to ascertain the arrest since most of the officers on the ground were out of reach.
Meanwhile, eight suspected Somali refugees have been remanded by an Isiolo court while another one was fined for being in the country illegally.
Elsewhere, police at the Kenyan-Somali border are holding nine Somali nationals who were found ferrying miraa (khat) to Somalia.
The suspects were intercepted at the Liboi border on Monday evening while aboard two vehicles bearing Somali registration numbers.
Source: The East African Standard