Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
Somali Islamist leader out of Kenyan custody

Thursday, February 01, 2007

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Top Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed -- seen by many as a key to reconciliation in post-war Somalia -- has left the custody of Kenyan intelligence and was reported by a Web site to be heading to Yemen.

"It's true that I'm heading to Yemen," he was quoted as saying on the Web site of the London-based ONKOD news agency run by a Somali journalist.

Contacted by Reuters at an undisclosed location in Nairobi, Sharif said he was in good health but declined to confirm his future plans. "I am 100 percent fine," he told Reuters.

"But there are no questions I can answer at this time."

Several Islamist leaders have taken refuge in Yemen since their movement's defeat over the New Year in an offensive by Somali government forces backed by the Ethiopian military.

Sharif, widely perceived as a moderate compared to other senior Islamists, was one of the two main leaders of the movement that took Mogadishu in June and ruled a swathe of south Somalia until the end of the year.

Sharif surrendered to Kenyan authorities on the border with Somalia about 10 days ago. Since then, he has met with the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger.

Washington views him as a potential player in possible reconciliation between the interim government and the Islamists.

Source: Reuters, Feb 01, 2007