British nationals accused of funding Islamist fighters in Horn of Africa

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The Independent Online

British and American nationals are fighting with Islamist militias in Somalia and the fundamentalist movement is being chiefly funded by sympathisers in the UK, it has been claimed.

The Deputy Prime Minister of the country's transitional government accused Britain of being the main source of money and men for the fighters of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU).

Hussain Mohammed Aideed said: "The ICU's main support was coming from London, paying cash to the ICU against the government. Those who died in the war with the ICU were British passport-holders and American passport-holders. "

Mr Aideed is the son of the warlord the American forces tried to kill or capture in their ill-fated intervention in Somalia in the early 1990s. Mr Aideed, a former member of the US armed forces, who grew up in America, told More4News: "They were the elite who went outside, were indoctrinated differently and were told that the government is not a Muslim government, but that it is a government backed by infidels."

The Independent, in Mogadishu after the Somali capital was taken over by Islamist forces last summer, discovered a significant number of young Somalis who had returned to fight for the Islamists from the diaspora in the West.

I spoke to at least half a dozen young men, including two brothers from Wood Green in north London who were acting as bodyguards for Sheik Yusuf, one of the main Islamist commanders. One of the brothers, Hamid, said at the time: "The true Muslims are the only ones who are honest and who are patriots. We are doing our duty by fighting for our country."

The Kenyan government said its forces had arrested a number of ethnic Somali men trying to cross the border after Ethiopian troops, backing the Somali government, retook Mogadishu and forced Islamists to retreat. Kenyan ministers said the men, accompanied by their families, were pretending to be refugees when there were signs they had been fighting.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, said nationals from Britain, Canada, Pakistan and Sudan were among those captured or injured in the violence. He told the French newspaper Le Monde: "Many international terrorists were killed. Photographs have been taken and passports from different countries collected. The Kenyans are detaining foreign passport holders. We have wounded people coming from Yemen, Pakistan, Sudan and the UK."

The Foreign Office said that it was investigating the allegations. "We take these reports very seriously and will do everything we can to look into them," a spokeswoman said. "We are in constant touch with the Ethiopian and Somalian governments, and will look into this matter."

Next week, the trial will start in London of those allegedly responsible for planning failed bombings in the capital on 21 July 2005. Most of the defendants have their origin in Somalia.

A suspect wanted by police for questioning about the murder of PC Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford, West Yorkshire, is thought to have fled back to his homeland, Somalia, disguised as a woman dressed in a veil.