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Concerns are growing over the fate of a 44 year old Somali-Danish man who is being held by al-Shabaab militants in southern Somalia for allegedly spying.
Mohamed Abdullahi Hajji Hussein (known as Shotayo) was picked from one of his business premises in the port city of Kismayo on April 21 of this year by heavily armed hooded militant fighters after accusing him of espionage.
Reliable sources within al-Shabaab told Somalia Report that Hussein might soon be executed. Similar information was leaked to Hussein’s family, who are now pleading with the militant group to spare his life.
“Hussein will be executed soon...that is for sure....because we established that he was spying on the Mujahideens. He will soon be made a victim of his own actions," a low ranking Shabaab fighter told Somalia Report on the condition of anonymity.
Born in Kismayo in 1968, Hussein went to Denmark in late 1990s where he was granted asylum and studied computer science, according to his family members. He was also an English teacher in Garowe, the administrative capital of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.
After negotiating with the rebel group to allow him set up business in Kismayo, an al-Shabaab stronghold, Hussein relocated to the city in 2009 and invested in different businesses. He set up a modern restaurant and a successful cybercafé with satellite dishes near the area main hospital.
Prominent militant leaders including the American born al-Mansuur al-Amriki were frequent users of his cybercafé, which was known for a high speed internet due to the “state-of –the-art equipment," according to one of the local youths who frequented the business.
All customers were required to switch off their mobile phones before entering this cybercafé for security reasons; a move locals say might have been a rebel order compelling Hussein to follow to keep his business open.
The big satellite dishes Hussein installed in Kismayo raised eyebrows among militant leaders. Al-Shabaab in particularly were concerned with his wealth and the satellite dishes, fearing that he might be spying on them. Our source in the militant group says some senior militant officials were not happy with these satellite dishes and even further accused Hussein of espionage.
After days of consultations among the rebel leaders, the group ordered an immediate investigation into Hussein’s conduct to establish the motive behind his investment in the city.
According to our source, some of the findings of the militant group were that Hussein employed several people in his business and the output of the business did not correspond to what he pays his employees. They alleged that he paid them more than what he earns from the business. His frequent travel also fueled the rebel suspicion.
Our militant source added that another case emerged when the late former TFG president, Abdullahi Yussuf Ahmed died in a hospital in Dubai. The group alleged that Hussein took part in the state burial of the former leader. The group later ordered the arrest on suspicion of being a spy and at the same time taking part the alleged burial of Mr. Yussuf.
When the news reached Hussein’s family, they could do nothing but to plea with the group to secure his release. They say their son is an innocent man who came to his home country to create a business, not spy. In an interview with Somalia Report, Hussein’s father, Abdullahi Hajji Hussein (also called Hussein), said he is concerned with the life of his son and has no idea of where he is being held, except rumours that his son is now being held in Merka town, another rebel stronghold in Lower Shabelle region.
“My son is a tough man who loves his people. He is a business minded man who always has a passion for business," said Hussein's father, Hussein.
He said after his son arrived in Kismayo few years ago, he sought the permission of top militant leaders in the area to set up his business in his hometown, to which they agreed. But years later, Hussein ended up in the hands of the same militants who gave him the green light to invest in the city.
“He asked top al-Shabaab leaders permission to invest in the city since they were in control of it and they gave him the go ahead," added Hussein senior.
He explained to our corresondent how his son was arrested.
“They picked him from his place and locked him up in the central police station before he was bundled into a pick-up track heading to Elasha Biyaha, where he was held in custody," he explained. (Elasha Biyaha is located on the outskirts of Mogadishu and was held by al-Shabaab until recently when they were dislodged from the area by the Somali and African Union forces.)
Hussein's father said they made several attempts to secure his release but failed due to differences among the rebel leaders concerning the fate of their son.
“When he was taken to Elasha Biyaha, they refused to allow us to visit him or have contact with him," said Hussein’s father. “We hoped they would include him a number of detainees they released from their jail in Elasha Biyaha before the area fell into the hands of the Somali government but he was not lucky to be included into those released."
He says the whereabouts of his son now remains unknown, but he had still hopes that he will be back one day. But such hopes were cut short when sources within the militant group informed him that Hussein might be executed soon.He is now appealing to all Somalis and local traditional elders in the region to intervene the situation and secure the life of his son.
Shabaab Officials Demand Financial Support
Meanwhile, al-Shabaab leaders today met clan elders in Kismayo and demanded immediate financial support for their fighers in the region; however some of the local elders reportedly told the rebel leaders that they cannot pay money unless Hussein is released by the militant group.
The al-Shabaab leaders refused to fulfill the elders’ demand, and the meeting ended without an agreement.
The group has previously executed many people whom they accused of spying on them in areas under their control. In early 2009 al-Shabaab executed Abdirahman Haji Ahmed (Waldire), a Jubba Valley Allaince’s officials, was executed for allegedly spying.