Report: ONLF Rebel Leader Illegally Extradited to Ethiopia

(VOA) The controversial extradition of a prominent ONLF rebel leader to Ethiopia was illegal, a report by a Somali parliamentary commission said Saturday.

(1/1)FILE – Ogaden National Liberation Front activists hold a banner in Mogadishu that reads, “The Ogaden freedom is the key to peace in the Horn of Africa,” during a ceremony that marked the organization’s 22nd anniversary in Somalia, Aug. 15, 2006.

Abdikarim Sheikh Muse, a top member of Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), which is based in Ethiopia, was handed over to Ethiopian authorities on August 28, after he was detained by Somali security forces in the central Somali town of Galkayo on August 23.

Somali authorities say Muse is a “terrorist and a regional threat.” His transfer is sparking outrage in Somalia, however, along with a social media uproar against the Mogadishu-based government.

Somalia’s lower house of parliament has endorsed Saturday’s report, which was submitted by a 15-member special commission set up in September.

The Somali cabinet had defended the transfer of Muse, saying it was done under a deal reached in 2015 that designates ONLF and al-Shabab as terrorist groups. But the parliamentary commission report found the deal was not struck at a federal level and should not be used as justification for exchanging criminals or prisoners.

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Intelligence agency blamed

The commission’s report also dismissed labeling the ONLF rebel group as a terrorist group, and it blamed the country’s intelligence agency for the extradition of Muse and for misleading leaders.

“The National Intelligence and Security Agency provided the leaders of government with the wrong information and did not inform the judiciary sector,” the report said.

“If the president and the prime minister knew about the rendition, it’s a disaster. And if they did not, then they cannot be trusted to lead the nation,” Abdirahman Hussein Odowaa, former interior minister and a member of parliament, said during the session.

Muse lived in Mogadishu for years, and his supporters say he holds dual Somali-Ethiopian citizenship. He is one of the ONLF’s top leaders.

Speaking to VOA Somali from Australia, ONLF spokesman Addani Hirmooge hailed the report and said it showed the parliament was against the “aggression” and stood with the true feeling of Somali people.

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Since 1984, the ONLF has waged an armed struggle against Ethiopia as it seeks secession of the Somali Region in Ethiopia.

In 2011, Addis Ababa labeled the group a terrorist organization, alongside al-Shabab and al-Qaida.

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