Five Somalis who landed at an airport in the country’s northern sub-state of Puntland were arrested Wednesday minutes after they get off an airplane from neighboring Djibouti, a government official told Radio Garowe.
Yasin Said, the governor of Karkar region in Puntland, told Radio Garowe the group of five Somalis was arrested by Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS) officers at Bossaso airport.
The detainees were then loaded onto vehicles and transported towards Garowe, the capital of Puntland.
But an intervention by a senior government official in Puntland halted the detainees’ trip to Garowe, according to the governor.
"The Security Minister [Abdullahi Said Samatar] gave the order to return the detainees [back] to Bossaso," Gov. Said, referring to the region’s commercial hub.
The governor of Karkar region, which is located south of Bossaso, said he accompanied police units to a checkpoint in the northern part of Qardho, the provincial capital.
Gov. Said stated that he was "displeased" by the detentions, while indicating to Radio Garowe that such an act only harms the image and security of Puntland.
Many people in Bossaso, including traditional elders and community leaders, have condemned the arbitrary arrests of the five Somali civilians.
A Puntland government source said the five detained civilians are accused of receiving military training in Eritrea and of having alleged links with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), ), an Ethiopian rebel movement made up of ethnic Somali fighters.
A community source privately told Garowe Online that local activists contacted Puntland Vice President Hassan Dahir Afqura, pleading with him to stop PIS agents from transferring the detainees over to the Ethiopian government.
But the Vice President said that he can do nothing in the matter, since a "third hand" was directly involved in the arrests.
The Puntland leader, Gen. Adde Muse, was then contacted in Addis Ababa, where he has been staying for a number of weeks for reasons undisclosed to the public.
Last month, PIS agents in Garowe arrested and handed over to Ethiopian intelligence services two politicians with the ONLF.
Days later, a group of eight civilians were detained by the PIS and later transferred to Ethiopian authorities.
International human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have accused the Ethiopian government of committing war crimes in Somalia and torturing domestic opponents of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.