Clara Gutteridge

The prisoner and the President: can Somalia's leader help free Ismail Mahmoud Muhamed from Guantánamo?

on 04 September 2009

Last week, Cori blogged about our trip to Nairobi to meet President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. We were there to talk about our Guantánamo client Ismail Mahmoud Muhamed who is a close associate of the President, yet still languishing in Guantánamo Bay.

Our meeting went well, and we were pleased to see the following article appear in Africa Confidential, Volume 50 no 17:

Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) will ask the United States to release a Somali terrorist suspect from Guantánamo Bay. Ismail Mahmoud Mohamed was a friend of and former advisor to President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and they worked together within the Islamic Courts Union (ICU).

After meeting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the first time in Nairobi on 6 August, Sheikh Sharif held an hour-long meeting with Ismail’s lawyer from the London-based organisation Reprieve, seeking to expedite his release.

When the TFG replaced the ICU in late 2006, Ismail helped launch the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), which he reportedly envisaged as a governing coalition of ex-ICU figures, TFG dissidents and intellectuals from the diaspora.

ARS was launched in Eritrea in September 2007, but Ismail Mahmoud did not arrive there.

He had been arrested in Djibouti whilst in transit in early June and was handed to the US Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and interrogated at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti.

On 6 June, he was transferred to Guantánamo, accused of serving as a weapons courier between Al Qaida groups in Pakistan (where he had lived and studied) and Somalia.

Ismail has not been charged with any crime and Sharif thinks that his ‘moderate views’ would be useful to his government, we hear. That may also strain his ties with the US, which has been plying him with military aid.

You can read more about Reprieve's work in the region in our Africa Renditions Report.

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