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Ethiopian court convicts 10 men of plotting attacks

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

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ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ten men were found guilty by an Ethiopian court on Tuesday of plotting attacks against political and economic targets in the Horn of Africa country with the help of Islamist militants from neighbouring Somalia.

Ethiopia waged an ill-fated war in Somalia in 2006-2009 and sent troops back in 2011 to fight the al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab group, opening a third front alongside Kenyan troops and an African Union mission.

It has long been seen by the West as a bulwark against radical Islam in east Africa, and there have been no attacks linked to al Shabaab in the past few years.

Prosecutors said Kenyan national Hassan Jarso was the leader of the group of Ethiopians and the mastermind of the planned attacks.

"Their aim was to set up camps and wage jihad by carrying out attacks on numerous targets," Justice Ministry Spokesman Desalegn Deressa told Reuters.

He said Jarso was a member of al Shabaab and that prosecutors were seeking life imprisonment for the Kenyan.

In September, al Shabaab withdrew from the southern port of Kismayu, their last major urban stronghold, a retreat that signalled their demise as a quasi-conventional military force.

The rebels vowed to step up a campaign of suicide bombings and hit-and-run attacks.

The defendants faced three terrorism-linked charges, which included plotting attacks, recruitment and illegal entry into Ethiopia for Jarso.

Out of 11 suspects that were charged, six were convicted in absentia and one man was acquitted. All but Jarso are Ethiopian nationals.

The court will deliver its sentences on January 15.

(Reporting By Aaron Masho; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Alison Williams)

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