'Ethiopia must release children held at mosque raid'

Amnesty International on Wednesday called on the Ethiopian military to release some 41 children held after a raid on Mogadishu's Al Hidya mosque.

'Ethiopia must release children held at mosque raid'
By Worldbulletin staff

Amnesty International on Wednesday called on the Ethiopian military to release some 41 children held after a raid on Mogadishu's Al Hidya mosque on 19 April 2008, which left 21 people dead.

'The safety and welfare of the children, some as young as nine years old, must be paramount for all parties,' said Amnesty International.

Witnesses have told Amnesty International that Ethiopian forces would only release the children from their military base in north Mogadishu "once they had been investigated and if they were not terrorists".

Amnesty International said it has received reports that a small number of children were released yesterday, the majority are still being held by Ethiopian forces.

Amnesty International strongly condemns the targeted killing of civilians in the raid.

Eleven of the 21 dead were killed inside the mosque, including the Iman Sheik Saiid Yahya, Sheik Abdullah Mohamud and several Tabliq Islamic scholars.

Eye-witnesses report that those killed inside the mosque were unarmed civilians taking no active part in hostilities.

Seven of the 21 were reported to have died after their throats were cut – a form of extra-judicial execution practised by Ethiopian forces in Somalia.

A spokesman for the Ethiopian government has denied the involvement of Ethiopian troops in these killings.

"The UN Security Council must take steps to end impunity across Somalia by launching an International Commission of Inquiry, or similar mechanism, to investigate human rights violations committed during the armed conflict," said Amnesty International.

For their part, the Ethiopian Government and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia must ensure an independent investigation into these killings; any Ethiopian soldiers found responsible must be prosecuted in line with international fair trial standards and without recourse to the death penalty.

Nine clerics found dead at mosque

The attack on the Al Hidya mosque occurred during two days of fighting between the Ethiopian military and TFG against insurgents, in which the Elman Human Rights Organisation documented 81 deaths and more than one hundred injured.

The bodies of nine Islamic clerics were found in and around the mosque in the Somali capital Monday, with residents saying they were shot by Ethiopian forces during weekend.

Six of the corpses lay inside the Al-Hidya Mosque in northern Mogadishu and three outside.

"They were innocent preachers who were shot dead by the Ethiopian forces," said Farah Fargan, a resident who helped collect the bodies.

Witness Sheikh Mohamed Muse said the Ethiopian troops also arrested boys who had taken refuge in the mosque during the fighting.

"What they did was a gross humanitarian violation. They shot innocent clerics inside the house of Allah, I'm sure God will punish them," Muse said.

Mogadishu's heaviest fighting in two months erupted Saturday between Islamist insurgents and Somali government troops backed by Ethiopian forces.

Last Mod: 24 Nisan 2008, 09:02
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