FIVE men arrested and abducted from Malawi in June on allegations of links with the al-Qaeda terrorist network spent a month in Zimbabwe, one of the suspects told the BBC this week. But Zimbabwean diplomats have denied any involvement by
Khalif Abdi Hussein, a 40-year-old Kenyan Muslim teacher of Somali origin, said in a BBC interview he was arrested in Malawi with four others before being whisked out of the country.
Reports in Malawi said local police had been tipped off by the CIA. Their deportation prompted violent demonstrations by Muslims in Malawi.
A fortnight ago, Hussein’s plight was raised in the Kenyan parliament, and the Nairobi government eventually announced it had traced his whereabouts to Harare, the BBC reported.
“From (Blantyre), they took us to Lilongwe”, Hussein said. “When we arrived in Lilongwe they (Malawi security officers) covered our eyes and our heads with headcloths. Then they took us to Zimbabwe,” he said.
“We were in Zimbabwe for one month,” he claimed.
But Hussein denied reports that they had been sent to the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“Myself, I did not see any American people. They (Malawi security) handed us over to Zimbabwe authorities who separated us – everyone was put in a cell,” Hussein said.
After four weeks all five suspects were moved from Harare and found themselves at Khartoum Airport in Sudan, the BBC reported Hussein as saying.
“They were trying to get something from us to link us to the al-Qaeda network. But they failed because we did not have any connections with al-Qaeda,” Hussein said.
The Sudanese government subsequently announced that the five men were being held in Khartoum and would be released.
“They told us: ‘We don’t see any evidence to link you with al-Qaeda network’,” said Hussein.
Malawian President Bakili Muluzi reportedly apologised on Tuesday to the families of the five al-Qaeda suspects for the embarrassment caused to them. On Wednesday, Hussein and his four co-suspects – a Saudi national, two Turks and a Sudanese – were released and told that they were free to go home.
A Malawi newspaper report said the five were placed aboard a chartered Air Malawi plane on June 23 due to fly to Lusaka. But the flight was diverted to Harare.
Zimbabwe’s High Commissioner to Lilongwe, Alice Nyazika, told Malawi’s Chronicle that her government had no information about the presence of the men in Harare. The paper quoted her as suggesting the report may have been a cover for what really transpired. – BBC/Staff Writer.