[dehai-news] (Chicago Tribune) Renditions fuel anger against U.S.


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From: Tsegai Emmanuel (emmanuelt40@gmail.com)
Date: Thu Dec 04 2008 - 03:12:15 EST


www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-shadow_war3dec04,0,3217360.story

"Among those captured was Daniel Joseph Maldonado, an American who is now
serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison in Houston for undergoing
military training at a camp in Somalia. Canadians, Swedes, Eritreans and
Syrians also were detained."
chicagotribune.com Renditions fuel anger against U.S.

By Paul Salopek

Tribune correspondent

December 4, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya—Clement Ibrahim Muhibitabo is one of the forgotten ones.

So is Ines Chine. So is Abdul Hamid Moosa.

Rwandan, Tunisian and South African citizens respectively, the three
Africans are among the victims of one of the largest if most obscure
rendition programs 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.

The snatch-and-jail operation was carried out by U.S. allies Kenya and
Ethiopia but involved CIA and FBI interrogators, say European diplomats,
human-rights groups and the program's many detainees.

It may be little-known to the American public, yet it has stoked deep
anti-U.S. sentiment among Muslims in the Horn of Africa.

That fury may even have contributed to the bloody election crisis in Kenya
that first erupted last December and killed 1,300 people. 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 an explosive, razor-close election.

While the operation netted a handful of hard-core Islamist militants who
were training at jihadist camps in Somalia—an American among them—the vast
majority of the detainees have been released without charges.

Many were held for months at "black site" secret prisons in Ethiopia. Today
they have scattered across Africa and the world, their stories overshadowed
by the more famous detainees at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba.

"You know what was strange? They only interrogated me twice," the Rwandan,
Muhibitabo, recalled of the American agents who showed up in the Ethiopian
capital, Addis Ababa, to grill him about Al Qaeda. "It was like I was
unimportant to them. Like I was a mistake. A mistake that took away four
months of my life."

Like most of the people ensnared in a security affair known locally as
"Africa's Guantanamo," Muhibitabo, a gem trader, was arrested after fleeing
to Kenya from Somalia in January 2007.

With covert U.S. support, Ethiopia had just toppled a radical Islamist
movement in Somalia. And jittery authorities in neighboring Kenya, advised
by CIA and FBI agents, were screening the tide of refugees streaming across
their border for militants.

At least 150 suspects from more than 18 countries ended up being shunted
into Kenyan jails, says Human Rights Watch, an international humanitarian
group. More than 100 were later loaded, handcuffed and blindfolded, onto
chartered airliners and flown secretly to Ethiopia for months of further
questioning.

"We had no access to lawyers, no contact with embassies, no phone calls,"
said Moosa, 42, a South African accountant who says he traveled to Somalia
to look into the possibility of charity work for the country's Islamic
movement.

"I was kept in solitary for a month, shackled ankle and feet, night and
day," said Moosa, who spent almost five months in Ethiopian custody. "The
Ethiopians would come collect me, blindfold me and drive me to some
apartment in Addis. And the Americans would be there waiting behind a desk,
asking me over and over about my terrorist connections."

Kenya and Ethiopia—both Christian-dominated countries—have longtime security
concerns with their anarchic neighbor, Muslim Somalia. For its part, the
U.S. has accused Somalia's Islamists of hosting top Al Qaeda operatives such
as Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, a mastermind of the 1998 bombings of U.S.
Embassies in Africa.

The most high-profile case to emerge from the clandestine African renditions
was Mohammed Abdul Malik, a Kenyan accused of participating in the bombing
of an Israeli-owned hotel in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa in 2002. Abdul
Malik was caught after fleeing from Somalia. Deemed too important for jail
in Ethiopia, he was secretly expelled to Guantanamo Bay.

"The police handed him over to the Americans without giving him a single
hour in a court," said Mariam Mohammed, the suspect's sister. "We still
don't know the evidence against him."

How much Washington actually steered the sprawling arrest and deportation
operation—a covert counterterrorism sweep second in scope only to the
deportation of more than 200 terror suspects out of Afghanistan immediately
after the fall of the Taliban—remains unclear.

The Bush administration declared that it had abandoned its own secret prison
program the year before, in 2006.

International human-rights groups, Western diplomats in Kenya and press
reports, however, have linked Washington to the more recent African
operation. Officially, American diplomats downplay this.

"The U.S. cooperates with Kenya and Ethiopia on security matters, with full
respect for the sovereignty of both countries," said State Department
spokesman Nicole Thompson, declining to go into more detail.

Still, the U.S. thumbprint is there. The luxury Sheraton hotel in Addis
Ababa swarmed with U.S. intelligence officers during the processing of the
detainees early last year, diplomats in Ethiopia say. And many ex-prisoners
have described being interrogated by American agents using names such as
"Dennis" or "Tom."

"The scale of this was enormous," said Stephen Grey, the author of "Ghost
Plane," a book about the global U.S. rendition program. "It's almost a
second phase of the rendition process, where the actual transportation was
outsourced to keep the U.S. in the background."

Among those captured was Daniel Joseph Maldonado, an American who is now
serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison in Houston for undergoing
military training at a camp in Somalia. Canadians, Swedes, Eritreans and
Syrians also were detained.

But the operation's most controversial captives were 11 women and 11
children.

One detainee, the Tunisian named Chine, was shot during her arrest along the
Kenyan border. She was pregnant at the time. Her baby survived, and she is
currently living in Egypt.

Another, Halima Badroudine Fazul, the wife of the Al Qaeda suspect wanted
for the U.S. Embassy bombings, spent almost five months in an Ethiopian
prison camp with her three young children. Eventually she was deported to
her home country, the Comoros.

Fairly or not, many in East Africa's traditionally moderate Muslim community
blame the U.S. directly for such treatment, saying the Ethiopians were doing
Washington's "dirty work." Ethiopia has denied all allegations of detainee
abuse.

"I don't know what the U.S. was thinking," said Al-Amin Kimathi, director of
Kenya's Muslim Human Rights Forum, a civic group that took the lead in
exposing the operation. "Maybe they thought it would be easier to get away
with something this big in Africa. Now most Muslims here really hate the
U.S."

Political analysts say that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki's strong
anti-terror cooperation with the U.S. contributed to his nation's violent
election crisis that began last December and spilled over into the new year.
Angered by the renditions, Kenya's minority Muslims voted en masse for
Kibaki's opponent, Raila Odinga, leading to a close race that exploded into
street battles.

In October, Ethiopia freed eight Kenyans held in custody for more than a
year. Meanwhile, all those released without explanation are trying to get on
with their lives.

"I still have some anxiety leaving my apartment," said Moosa, the South
African. "I'm a bit paranoid. I will never leave South Africa again."

psalopek@tribune.com

Copyright (c) 2008, Chicago Tribune <http://www.chicagotribune.com/>

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