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Somalia-Ethiopia: Release Children's rights held in raid on Al Hidya mosque

Amnesty International today called on the Ethiopian military to release 41 Children's rights held after a raid on the Al Hidya mosque in Mogadishu – the capital of Somalia – on 19 April 2008, which left 21 people dead. Some of the Children's rights being held are as young as nine years old.

Witnesses have told Amnesty International that Ethiopian forces would only release the Children's rights from their military base in north Mogadishu “once they had been investigated” and “if they were not terrorists”.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“The safety and welfare of the Children's rights must be paramount for all parties.”

While Amnesty has received reports that a small number of Children's rights were released yesterday, the majority of the Children's rights 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. Eyewitnesses have reported that those killed inside the mosque were unarmed and had not taken part in the conflict.

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.

Kate Allen continued:
"The UN Security Council must endeavour to investigate human rights violations committed during the armed conflict."

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.

The attack on the Al Hidya mosque occurred during two days of fighting between the Ethiopian military and TFG against armed groups opposed to them, in which the Elman Human Rights Organisation documented 81 deaths and more than 100 people injured.

It is not known how many of these were civilians. The attack also followed increasing attacks by armed groups opposed to the TFG on towns in southern and central Somalia, including an attack on Beledweyne by Al-Shabab militia on 13 April, where local residents reported that militia members killed four teachers. An Al-Shabab leader has claimed the teachers were shot in crossfire.

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