Somaliland rejects France prisoner exchange request


President Dahir Rayale Kahin has rejected a French government request to exchange prisoners after his return from Paris, Somalilandpress reports.

The president issued a press statement on May 24 inciting that he was put under pressure to “release terrorists detained in our Somaliland Jails” during his last visit to Europe. The president is believed to be referring to his May trip to the French capital where he met with French Foreign Minister and European Affairs, Bernard Kouchner in his office at Quai d’Orsay.

The president said Somaliland’s courts of justice were not under foreign influence. “I am proud to affirm that justice of Somaliland is not under influence and that nothing can justify the release of these people,” the statement read.
Somalilandpress has learned that the French government made a request to president Rayale to release members of Somalia’s al-Shabaab and other radical groups currently held in Somaliland prisons. The French is believed to have made a secret deal with al-Shabaab and Hisbul Islam militants who operate in Somalia’s south to release a French security adviser, who was among two agents captured in Mogadishu in July of 2009 while on a secret mission to train Somali forces. One of them has since escaped from Hisbul Islam group while the other remains unknown where about he is kept in Somalia.

Now the French government has tried to convince President Rayale to pardon some of the dozens of Islamist prisoners languishing in government jails. Anaylsts believe the French may have asked Somalia’s Islamist movement groups to release their agent in return for the men released from Somaliland.

The prisoners are believed to have carried out or linked to terrorist attacks that occurred between 2003 and 2008 in Somaliland. In 2003, an Italian nun working in the city of Borama was shot dead by an extremists and killing a British couple in the same period in the town of Sheikh, which lies between the capital and the port city of Berbera.

In October of 2008, members belonging to al-Shabaab carried out the most deadliest attack in Somaliland when trio-suicide car bombs struck the Somaliland presidential palace, an Ethiopian Consulate office and a United Nations office. At least 20 people were killed and more than 30 others wounded in the attacks in Hargeisa.

The president said releasing the men will in danger the national security and he was not ready to offer Somaliland’s justice as a bargain chip for foreign elements with their own interest.

Somalia’s radical group, al-Shabaab is believed to have ties with al-qaeda and have a global agenda to impose their own interpretation of Islam and the Sharia. Many of the group’s top leaders including their Emir is originally from Somaliland however fled after gaining no support from Somaliland’s public who reject radicalism.

The French having been convinced Rayale will not comply with their request might try a different tactic with Somalia’s interim leader, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who is currently in Nice for the Africa-France Summit.

Sheikh Sharif’s Western backed government only controls one block known as Kilometer 2 in the capital and the villa with the help of African Union troops from Uganda and Burundi.

Pic: President Dahir Rayale Kahin of Somaliland