Police detain more than 70 Somali 'migrants' in South Sudan

Northern Bahr al Ghazal State's police have confirmed that they stopped 74 Somalis who were passing through the state intending to cross into Sudan. The police identified them as “migrants” rather than terrorist fighters as elsewhere reported.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj today, State Police Commissioner Mariing Deng Akuei said they arrested 74 Somali nationals.

“They are Somalis, they are migrants who came from Somalia,” he said. “I think some of them previously served in the army or what I do not know because some of them had army ID cards of Somalia, while some of them were moving without passports,” he added.

He said that 55 of them are men and the other 19 are women, describing them as young between the ages of 21 and 30.

Mariing said that the suspects were arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department, saying they were found in one house hired by a Somali. “The Somali man hired the house so that those people could stay with him, to receive them from the airport and receive those from the checkpoint in order to accommodate them and then sneak to the north at night, so this is the goal,” he explained.

He claimed that their activities started since 2012, saying the police in Aweil were ordered by the Passports and Immigration office in Juba to carry out investigations.

“So after the investigations, we proved that those people were moving without any documents, it is dangerous, we handed them over to the authorities of Western Bahr al Ghazal and police commissioner there,” he said.

The police official's remarks follow statements by the Minister of Cabinet Affairs in Juba Martin Elia Lomuro who said after a cabinet meeting Friday that the country's national interior ministry had reported “potential presence of Al Shabaab and other Islamic organizations in our country."

“Apparently they (ministry of interior) have identified and apprehended 76 people who are of Kenyan and Somali origin who were caught trying to cross into Sudan from South Sudan,” Lomuro was quoted as saying.

However, Mariing did not say that the arrested Somalis belonged to Al Shabab terror group, only saying, “We have fears if we could allowed them [to continue their travels], they could have joined international terror organizations.” He said that the Somalis have been taken southward to Western Bahr al Ghazal State after which they would be dealt with by national authorities so that they could be reunited with their families in Somalia.  

Contacted by Radio Tamazuj, the head of the Muslim community in Aweil said that he had no information about the case of the 74 Somalis. Likewise, a trade official at the border checkpoint where they allegedly had intended to cross said he knew nothing about the matter.

Map: Northern Bahr al Ghazal State