1 February 2007

Somalia: U.S. Diplomat Bids the Release of 11 US Soldiers Seized in Somalia

Addis Ababa — Somalia's routed Islamist leader Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed and the US ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, have come to bidding over the release of 11 US servicemen reportedly captured by the defeated Islamists in southern Somalia.

According to Al-Khaleej news agency, based in Emirates quoting the DPA news agency, reliable diplomatic sources indicate that at least the two men have had four rounds of talks over the American soldiers in the captivity of Islamists in southern jungles of the war-torn country, Somalia.

Mr. Ranneberger has asked the Islamist leader in the custody of Kenyan authority to order the release the US soldiers who were seized during heavy ground skirmishes between the Islamists and the American soldiers accompanied by Ethiopian troops. Sources say the incident took place nearly three weeks ago in southern Somalia.

According to Al-Khaleej, sheik Sharif stipulated the release of the soldiers with several conditions. He said, "Ethiopian soldiers in Somalia should be withdrawn immediately, America should halt the military action in south the country, I should be transferred from Kenya to another safe country (probably Yemen) and the United States should tell the world that 11 of its marine soldiers were seized in Somalia."

Sheik Sharif said if these conditions were fulfilled, they would facilitate the release of the American soldiers, asserting he would always feel insecure and unsafe as long as he lingers in Kenya.

Mr. Ranneberger, who was campaigning for the African peacekeeping force to Somalia, has always told the world press that moderate Islamists like Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed should be inclusive in the Somali transitional government that is now in control of the country with the help of the thousands of Ethiopian troops.

RELATED STORY: U.S. Department of Defense Denies Capture of U.S. Soldiers

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