By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
January 3, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) - Ethiopia’s security forces have arrested 15 individuals alleged to be members of a terrorist cell affiliated with Al Qaeda’s network in the East African region, the country’s intelligence agency announced late on Wednesday.
- Al Shabaab militants parade new recruits after arriving in Mogadishu October 21, 2010, from their training camp south of the capital (Reuters/Feisal Omar)
The National Security and Intelligence Agency said the suspected militants were trained by al-Shabab militants in neighboring Somalia and Kenya.
Officials said the suspects were plotting terrorist attacks in Ethiopia’s Somali and Harar Regional States.
Military training manuals, jihad war videos and a number of weapons were seized by Ethiopia’s police.
Ethiopia has repeatedly blamed its arch-rival Eritrea for many terrorist attacks on its territory, an allegation Asmara denies.
Ethiopia sent its troops into war-torn Somalia in 2006 to help the weak Somalia government oust the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) risking retaliatory attacks from al-Qaeda and al-Shabab militants.
On Tuesday the country’s federal high court convicted 10 men who were accused of plotting terror attacks in collaboration with Islamist extremist rebels from neighbouring Somalia.
The court will pass final sentences on January 15.
Ethiopia endorsed the controversial anti-terrorism proclamation in 2009, which international rights groups and activists have criticized for being vague, broadly defined and intended to punish the governments opposition, as well as critical journalists in the pretext of terrorism.
In recent years, the horn Africa nation, predominantly Christian, is facing a rising Islamist militancy.
Muslims often demonstrate against what they allege is the government’s intervention in religious affairs. Addis Ababa has repeatedly dismissed those allegations.
In November a US religious freedom group called on Ethiopian authorities to stop violating religious freedom for Muslims.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) warned that unless Ethiopia respects religious freedom the ongoing mass protests in the country could turn fiercer and might be a cause to a larger destabilization to the already volatile East African region.