Ethiopia arrests former president of restive Somali region

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Ethiopian police on Monday detained the former president of the volatile Somali region after a spate of deadly clashes earlier this month, state media reported.

The arrest of Abdi Mohamed Omar, commonly known as Abdi Iley, came days after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Abdi would face charges following fighting in the regional capital Jijiga and nearby towns.

“Abdi was arrested for allegedly being behind the human rights violations as well as the ethnic and religious clashes that have happened in the Ethiopian Somali region,” Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) said, citing the attorney general.

The state broadcaster on Monday showed armed federal police officers leading Abdi out of a house in the capital Addis Ababa and into an SUV.

The unrest in Somali region began earlier this month when the Ethiopian military moved into Jijiga, sparking looting and mob attacks on non-Somali residents, witnesses told AFP.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church later said churches were burned and five priests killed in the violence.

It is unclear what sparked the military’s intervention. However, on August 7, Abdi resigned.

Somali region is Ethiopia’s second-largest but also one of its most unstable, and rights groups have repeatedly accused Abdi’s government of using its Liyu police force to carry out abuses.

Last year, clashes between Somalis and the neighboring Oromo people along their regional border forced 1.1 million people from their homes and left hundreds dead.

In July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Abdi of running a secret jail where suspected members of a separatist group were tortured.

Yesterday, the Regional Council of Ethiopia Somali Region lifted the immunity of seven of its members, including former president Abdi Mohammued Omar, Rahma Haybe, head of Women & Children Bureau; Abdijamal Ahmed, head of the Justice Bureau; Ibrahim Adan, head of the Education Bureau; Deq A Buralle and Omar Mohammed, members of the Council.

In its session that was held yesterday, the Council has also approved the nomination of Mustafa Omer as acting president of the region.

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