NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Two Kenyan police officers will be charged in court with the kidnapping of two officials of the Ethiopian rebel group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a Kenyan official said Monday.
Nairobi Criminal Investigations chief Nicholas Kamwende said witnesses identified the two Kenyan officers as having allegedly abducted of Sulub Abdi Ahmed and Ali Ahmed Hussein on Jan. 26 outside a restaurant in the capital, Nairobi.
The two police officers were brought to court on Monday but the reading of their charges was postponed until Thursday. Court documents show that Kenyan police believe that after their abduction Ahmed and Hussein were taken to Ethiopia. The rebels want an independent state for Ethiopia's Ogaden region, which is mostly inhabited by ethnic Somalis.
Ahmed and Hussein were part of Ogaden rebel team in Kenya for negotiations with the Ethiopian government, said Abdi Rahman Mahdi, the chief negotiator for rebels told AP from London in a telephone interview.
Mahdi said on the day they were abducted, Ahmed, a negotiator, and Hussein, a member of the negotiation team's secretariat, were invited for lunch by an unknown person. When the two walked out of the restaurant after lunch, six men came out of two cars and attempted to grab them but they resisted causing a melee, Mahdi said reconstructing event from witnesses and accounts given to him by the Kenya police.
Mahdi said Ahmed and Hussein were subdued when one of the abductors pulled out a police identification card and shouted for help from the crowd gathering around to see the commotion claiming that he was arresting two terrorists "who were planning to bomb the country."
He said with help from some people from the crowd the abductors forced Ahmed and Hussein into the cars using blows and kicks. Mahdi said the two were driven to Moyale, at the Kenyan-Ethiopia border where they were picked up by helicopters
"We fear for their lives and their well-being," he said. Mahdi said he did not think the Kenyan government knew about the abduction and claimed it was solely the work of the Ethiopian military commander in charge of Eastern Command under which the Ogaden region falls.
Shimelis Kemal, an Ethiopian government spokesman, said he has no information about the alleged kidnapping of Ogaden officials in Nairobi. Mahdi said without the unconditional release of the two rebel members negotiations with Ethiopia will not resume and Kenya will no longer be safe as a venue to hold the talks. He said Kenya has been working to revive the talks.
"If they're not returned safely it will be very hard for us to face another round of talks with Ethiopia let alone coming to Kenya," he said. Negotiation between the Ethiopian government and Ogaden rebels broke down in Oct 2012 after the Ethiopian government side walked out of the talks. Mahdi claimed the Ethiopian government made demands for the talks to begin which the rebels refused because both parties had agreed there should be no pre-conditions for the talks to be held.
The Ogaden rebels are blamed for the 2007 attack on a Chinese-run oil field in the region in which scores died.
Associated Press Writer Elias Meseret contributed to this report from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.