Home | News    Monday 28 July 2003

Released ’al-Qaida’ suspect says he is safe and healthy

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By RAPHAEL TENTHANI Associated Press Writer

BLANTYRE, Malawi, Jul 28, 2003 (AP) — A Sudanese man who had been arrested with four other terror suspects and deported from Malawi told a radio station here Monday the five men had been released in Sudan and were in good shape.

However, Sheik Mahmud Sardar Issa did not tell the Blantyre-based Radio Islam how the men got to Sudan in the first place.

The five, a Saudi, a Kenyan, two Turks and Issa, were arrested by Malawian officials last month with the help of the CIA and accused of funneling money to al-Qaida.

Despite a Malawi court ruling forbidding the government from deporting the five, they were reportedly turned over to U.S. officials and taken out of the country.

U.S. Ambassador Roger Meece later praised Malawi for arresting the men and turning them over.

But their appearance last week in Sudan, a north African country on the U.S. terror list, has perplexed many here.

Issa, who heads the Islamic Zakaat Fund Trust, which runs Radio Islam, only said the five had been held "in a neighboring country."

Although the men were treated with dignity, they were surprised to be linked to Osama bin Laden’s terror network, he said.

Hub-Eddin Abbakar, spokesman for Issa’s organization, said Monday the five were brought to Khartoum last week after the CIA and Malawian officials failed to prove their terror ties.

"After Sudanese officials also cleared them, they were handed over to their respective embassies," he said.

Abbakar said the arrested Saudi left for his home country Friday and the two Turkish citizens went home Saturday.

The Kenyan, Sheik Khalifa Abdi Hassan, is with Kenyan officials in Sudan waiting for a flight home, he said.

The men are considering whether to return to Malawi, he said.

The arrests of the five and their removal from Malawi had sparked protests among the country’s Muslims, who make up about 20 percent of the population. Angry mobs attacked churches and the offices of at least one U.S. aid group.

Malawi government officials said they were perplexed that the men appeared to have been released in Sudan.

Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Monjeza Maluza said the United States had not told Malawi what became of the five and the southern African nation had a right to know.

"We are just hearing about it in the media," he said. "We expected (U.S. officials) to communicate with us," Maluza told journalists.

The U.S. Embassy declined to comment.

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