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Today from Hiiraan Online:
Briton held in Mogadishu was 'carrying suspicious materials'
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Man identified as Cleve Everton Dennis held in Somali capital for suspected links to Islamist rebel group al-Shabaab.
A British citizen who was detained at the airport in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, on Tuesday said he wanted to travel to an al-Shabaab stronghold and was carrying suspicious materials, including hundreds of CDs, an African Union military spokesman said.
The man, identified as Cleve Everton Dennis, was detained by security operatives of the African Union peacekeeping force, Amisom, at the airport when he arrived on a flight from Nairobi in neighbouring Kenya.
Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Ankunda, an Amisom spokesman, said Dennis had been handed over to the Somali National Security Agency for further questioning. Dennis, who was born in 1966, was travelling on a British passport.
"He had documents but he appeared very suspicious and we arrested him," Ankunda said on Wednesday. "He said he was going to Kismayo. Now, Kismayo is an al-Shabaab area so we really got interested in him."
Al-Shabaab, which is fighting Somalia's weak transitional government, controls large areas of southern Somalia, including the port city of Kismayo, which is a major income earner for the Islamist rebels, who formally joined al-Qaida in February.
Amisom forces have secured most of Mogadishu since al-Shabaab fighters withdrew last August. But the rebels still carry out attacks within the battle-scarred seaside city, including a series of mortar and car bomb attacks on the presidential compound in the past fortnight.
Al-Shabaab fighters, who have imposed a harsh form of sharia in the areas they control, are also fighting Kenyan forces in the south and Ethiopian troops in the centre of the Horn of Africa nation.
Britain considers Somalia a direct threat to its own security because of the presence of foreign fighters, including Britons, among the al-Shabaab rebels.
The Royal United Services Institute said in a February report that Britons make up about 25% of the 200 or so foreign fighters believed to have joined al-Shabaab, and that these overseas fighters could herald a new wave of international terrorism.
However, it would be highly unusual for an al-Shabaab sympathiser to enter Somalia through the main airport in Mogadishu, which is controlled by Amisom troops.
"It is strange, of course," Ankunda told the Guardian. "How do you travel from the UK and arrive in Mogadishu and say you are going to Kismayo?"
"[Dennis] had suspicious metal in his luggage and other materials. The experts are looking at them. He was carrying hundreds of CDs and other things that looked like powder," he added.
Ankunda also confirmed reports that Dennis had visited Ethiopia, which also neighbours Somalia, in 2010.
A spokesman for the British high commission in Nairobi said they had heard the reports of the arrest and were looking into the case. He declined to give any further details.
Most foreign fighters are believed to cross by land into Somalia from neighbouring Kenya, or other surrounding countries.
Among the Britons suspected of al-Shabaab links is Jermaine Grant, from Newham, east London, who was arrested in Kenya's seaside city of Mombasa in December and has been charged with possessing bomb-making equipment with the intent to cause loss of life.
Grant is also standing trial in a separate case in Nairobi in relation to an incident near the border between Somalia and Kenya in 2008.
The prosecution in that case says Grant was detained by Kenyan police but escaped when suspected al-Shabaab rebels attacked the Dadajabula police station and stole weapons.
He has been charged with multiple counts of robbery with violence and escaping from lawful custody. He is due back in court in the Kenyan capital later this month.
Media reports in 2008 said he and two others were trying to sneak into Somalia disguised as women.
In October last year, two 18-year-old men from Cardiff were arrested after trying to walk across the border between Kenya and Somalia.
Kenyan police are also still hunting for a woman believed to be Samantha Lewthwaite, the widow of 7/7 bomber Germaine Lindsay, over her alleged connections to a bomb plot in Mombasa.
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