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Italian prosecutors investigate as embassy standoff in Rome enters its third week

Sunday May 1, 2022

Abdirahman Sheik Issa (L) said that he was unceremoniously removed from his post as Somali Ambassador to Italy just weeks before a new government was to be elected. He called on Italian prosecutors to investigate.

Mogadishu (HOL) - Prosecutors in Italy are investigating a dispute between Somali officials over the control of Somalia's embassy in Rome's Prati district.

The power struggle between diplomats began on April 7 when Somalia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed Ahmed Abdirahman Sheikh Nur as the embassy's Charges d'Affaires.

The active ambassador, Abdirahman Sheik Issa, immediately rebuffed the foreign ministry's decision, arguing that it broke diplomatic protocol as the new appointee must come from within the embassy.

Issa had been heading the embassy for four years.

In a letter to their Italian counterparts, Somalia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Abdirahman Sheik Issa had been "recalled for internal consultation" and that his tenure ended on March 28.

Ahmed Abdirahman Sheikh Nur's arrival came a week before Somalia's 11th parliament was sworn into office. The previous parliament was without a legal mandate since December 2020.

Issa said that he was never formally notified and that his successor arrived in the Italian capital unannounced. He also said that it is unusual for an ambassador to be removed as a new government is being elected.

Italian authorities allege that Sheikh Nur -accompanied by a locksmith - gained entry into the embassy in the middle of the night and barricaded himself inside with two of his associates that arrived with him from Mogadishu. Nur then proceeded to change the locks.

Issa returned the following morning to see that he had been locked out in what he described as a coup d'état.

He reported the embassy takeover to the Prati police station and invoked diplomatic protection, saying that his safety as ambassador was in danger. He explained to the investigators that he is "physically prevented from exercising the duties, which are still in progress."

Italian media has identified Ahmed Abdirahman Sheikh Nur as President Farmajo's cousin and hinted that the conflict between the diplomats might tie back into problems between different power groups in Somalia.

Nur previously worked as the Charge d'Affaires at the Embassy of Somalia in Lusaka.

Investigators in Rome said they're trying to verify Nur's claims and work out whether the eviction in via dei Gracchi was authorized directly by Mogadishu or whether it is a plot cultivated independently by Abdirahman Nur.

Ali Abukar Hayo, the lawyer for the ousted ambassador, confirmed to Italian media that prosecutors are working on the case and that he would not comment further out of respect for the open investigation.


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