Report discusses blowback of US rendition program in Somalia

Paul Salopek appears to be just about the only mainstream American reporter paying attention to America’s secret war in Africa, and specifically in Somalia. In what is in fact America’s most recent war, the US approved and assisted an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, in late 2006. The operational aim of the invasion was to terminate the local grass roots leadership of the Islamic Courts Union and prevent “anarchic Somalia from becoming the world’s next Afghanistan”. A new article by Salopek sheds light on the use of extraordinary rendition by US military and intelligence agencies during that invasion. He describes it as “the […] most obscure rendition program in the global war on terror: the mass arrest, deportation and secret imprisonment of some 100 people who fled an invasion of Somalia last year —a roundup that even included women and small children”. These renditioned prisoners “were held for months at “black site” secret prisons in Ethiopia”, but were handled by CIA and FBI interrogators. One released prisoner is quoted as stating “[t]he Ethiopians would come collect me, blindfold me and drive me to some apartment in Addis [Ababa]. And the Americans would be there waiting behind a desk, asking me over and over about my terrorist connections”. Salopek reveals that the mass arrest operation did net “a handful of hard-core Islamist militants who were training at jihadist camps in Somalia —an American among them— [but] the vast majority of the detainees have been released without charges”. Yet legal problems arise even in the case of the most senior of the militants netted in the operation, that of Mohammed Abdul Malik, who is said to have participated in a 2002 bombing of a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya. Malik was “deemed too important for jail in Ethiopia [and] was secretly expelled to Guantanamo Bay”. Secretly and possibly illegally, one may add, since, as his sister claims “[t]he police handed him over to the Americans without giving him a single hour in a court […]. We still don’t know the evidence against him”. Perhaps more importantly, Salopek discusses the very real possibility that the political blowback from the extraordinary renditions of women and children “may […] have contributed to the bloody election crisis in Kenya that first erupted last December and killed 1,300 people”. This is because, as “Muslim human-rights groups and political analysts in Kenya say, the renditions helped incite the nation’s Muslims to vote en bloc against a pro-American president and set the stage for [the] explosive, razor-close election” that led to the clashes. [JF]

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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