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Somalia's ex-spy chief apologises for extradition of ONLF commander to Ethiopia

By Staff Correspondent , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - A former Somalia intelligence chief has rendered a public apology for the role he played in the rendition of Abdikarim Qalbi-Dhagah, a senior ONLF commander.

Abdullahi Sanbalolshe, who has since quit from the intelligence agency, admitted "misleading" President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo in the whole saga that attracted international criticism in 2017.

The unprecedented events saw Qalbi Dhagah arrested in Galmadug, taken to Mogadishu before being handed over to Ethiopian authorities in August 2017 by Somali Government.

So fragile was the move that rights groups openly condemned Somalia, besides calling for strict adherence to international practices.

Qalbi Dhagah wrongly extradited

At a press conference on Monday, Mr. Sanbalolshe also asked Farmajo to call for a cabinet meeting and subsequently apologize to the victim.

"I apologize for my actions that led to the extradition of Qalbi Dhagah and I honestly regret that very much," he said, adding "it was completely unnecessary".

He added: "The president and the PM should call for a cabinet meeting and apologize to him. He should invite Qalbi Dhagah and ONLF to Mogadishu."

ONLF blacklisted as the terror group

Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) movement was blacklisted by the Ethiopian government and subsequently flagged as a terror group, Fana said.

The group, which controls the Somali region, had for long periods called for secession from Ethiopia, further fueling hostility in Addis Ababa.

And in 2015, Villa Somalia said, it had signed an agreement blacklisting the group and Al-Shabaab, thus leading to Qalbi Dhagah's apprehension and subsequent extradition.

But the ex-spy chief now says "ONLF is not a terror group. The narrative should be dropped by the government immediately and we have to apologize."

His admission could test the relationship between Ethiopia and Somalia, especially the semi-autonomous Ogaden region that has been fighting against seclusion, Nyambega Gisesa said.

ONLF describes itself as “a national liberation organization that struggles for the rights of the Somali people in Ogaden and has no involvement whatsoever in Somalia’s multifaceted conflict at all.”

Abiy Ahmed's intervention

A year after his detention in Ethiopia, Qalbi Dhagah was released following sweeping reforms instigated by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Mr. Ahmed has reinstated democracy in the Horn of Africa nation, releasing dozens of political detainees in process, Reuters reported.

Last year, Ahmed won Nobel Peace Prize ostensibly for his radical reforms in Ethiopia and the historic peace deal with neighboring Ethiopia.

To reduce the antagonism created by ethnic seclusion politics, Ahmed has foiled his EPRDF coalition for a more unifying Prosperity Party, Fana said.

Ogaden region's historical seclusion

The Ogaden region, a disputed territory between Ethiopia and Somalia was the subject of a war in February 1977.

Ex-Cuban president Fidel Castro okayed the deployment of 1000s of soldiers under the leadership of one General Arnaldo Ochoa to help Ethiopia in a war.

The troops went to support the regime under Mengistu Haile Mariam to annex the Ogaden region.

Somalia at the time, albeit allies of Ethiopia believed they were winning the war but forcefully surrendered the Ogaden plateau to the 17,000 Cuban soldiers.