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Kenya Denies it Deported Ethiopian Agents

Kenyan police are denying media reports that four men recently deported to Ethiopia were government agents sent to Kenya to track down rebels.

Kenyan police spokesman Jaspher Ombati told VOA he did not tell Kenyan and international media that the four deportees were or claimed to be secret Ethiopian government agents on a mission in Kenya.

"These people were arrested, and the main reason of their arrest was that they did not have the papers to be in the country," he said. "People coming from another country needs to have papers - they have to pass through the immigration department, to get the necessary papers indicating why they are staying here, for how long, and so on. These people did not have those papers. They were taken to court, and the court decided that they be deported back to their country."

Reports appearing in Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper and the French News Agency quoted police officials as saying the four men claimed to be Ethiopian security agents.

AFP reported that the agents were in Kenya to hunt down members of the Oromo Liberation Front ebel group fighting for an independent state in southern Ethiopia, and had left Kenya after Ethiopian officials in the capital Addis Ababa confirmed their identities. The Daily Nation said the agents had abused Ethiopian refugees in Kenya.

Mr. Ombati denied both reports.

"Those are the media reports," he said. "With us, we do not have those facts. What we know is that those people were here illegally."

An official at the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi, who declined to be named, said there have been several reports in the local press within the last few weeks about the incident.

"I found them contradictory to each other and we are examining these things, and we finally would like to come back to you," the official said.

He said he was unable to talk to VOA about the situation.

Relations between Ethiopia and Kenya have been tense for a long time. Cross-border raids involving ethnic groups and militiamen on both sides occur regularly.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki is in Ethiopia on a four-day visit. He is to meet with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and others to discuss ways of improving ties between the two countries and how to improve security along their volatile border.