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Aideed's men kept UN soldier naked and chained: Nigerian was captured when his unit was ambushed at road block

A NIGERIAN soldier released by General Mohamed Farah Aideed's forces last Thursday told a press conference yesterday that he was kept for a month chained up naked in a windowless room.

Umaru Shantali, 20, said that the day after he was captured unharmed by General Aideed's forces, one of them twisted his ankle to stop him running away. He also said that whenever there was fighting he was taken towards it. 'They took me to that place so they can say that Unosom (the United Nations force) has killed its own man,' said Mr Shantali.

He was captured on 5 September when his unit was ambushed at a road block. He said the Nigerians were unwilling to fire on the Somali crowd 'because we came here to help them', but his unit did fire back and seven of his comrades were killed. When he found himself surrounded by a crowd and cut off from the other troops, he knelt and prayed aloud from the Koran. This, he said, saved his life.

Mr Shantali spoke to journalists at the Swedish hospital in the UN headquarters in Mogadishu, where he told his story with humour and irony and with few signs of physical or mental trauma. Doctors who had examined him said he was in 'tremendous shape'. His commanding officer was seated on his right and frequently prompted him.

He said that for a month he was unable to move and had been unchained only to eat. He was kept completely naked, was not allowed to wash, and had to defecate and urinate where he lay. For two weeks he could not stand because of the severe sprain to his right ankle. The other leg was chained to his wrist. For the last two weeks he was chained to a chair.

When the Red Cross visited him a month after he was captured, he was ordered to tell them he was being well treated and that he was allowed to go to the lavatory, but he said he told the Red Cross the truth. Eventually he was allowed to wear Somali clothes, a shirt and wrap, and he was released when the United States sent a special envoy to secure the release of Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant, a captured American helicopter pilot.

During his first days in captivity Mr Shantali said he was unwilling to drink or smoke for fear of being poisoned, but the woman who brought him drinks tasted them first to prove they were not poisoned. The woman looked after him and tried to tend his ankle.