Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Friday, 26 December 2008

Somalis held in Ethiopia capital

By Elizabeth Blunt
BBC News, Addis Ababa

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Hundreds of young Somalis have been arrested in the past few days in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

A number were questioned and then released but it is thought at least 200 are still being held.

Most of the arrests took place on Tuesday night and Wednesday in the Bole area, the part of the town where most of the Somali community live.

A Somali embassy spokesman said he understood that security was being tightened before a regional summit.

In some cases young men were taken from their homes while others were arrested in the streets.

A spokesman for the Somali embassy in Addis Ababa said he and his colleagues were going around the police stations to find out what was going on.

No explanation

He said that following the initial round-up, police were now working their way through those arrested, checking their papers, fingerprinting them and then, if everything was in order, letting them go.

He said that as of Friday morning he believed that around 200 Somali citizens were still being held.

Asked how the embassy felt about the raids, the spokesman said he could not say they were happy but that this was the prerogative of the Ethiopian government.

He understood it had security concerns in the Bole area which is close to Addis Ababa's international airport, especially in the light of the upcoming African Union summit, and he added that if there was a security threat in Bole, then the embassy itself could be the first target.

Ethiopia's federal police spokesman, Commander Demsash Hailu, has so far not been able to offer any explanation for the arrests.

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