More than 100 Somalis, recently released from Ethiopian detention facilities and handed over to the Somali government, arrived in Mogadishu on Saturday, government officials told VOA Somali.
The 114 prisoners smiled and some of them kneeled as they got off the plane and kissed the soil. Parents and relatives waiting for them at the airport cheered and burst into tears.
Government officials told local media that the Somali prisoners had been held in Ethiopian jails for various offenses, including "illegal entry."
Jamaludin Mustafa Omar, the Ethiopian ambassador to Somalia, who was with the prisoners, said the move was a sign of the good ties between the countries.
"Some of these prisoners had 20-year sentences, and their release represents the strengthening relationship between our two countries," Omar said.
The release of the Somali prisoners followed talks between Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre and his Ethiopian counterpart, Hailemariam Desalegn, on the sidelines of the recent 29th African Union Heads of States summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Somalia's ambassador to Ethiopia, Mohamed Ali Nur, who also accompanied the prisoners, thanked Ethiopia for giving them amnesty.
"We are very thankful to Ethiopia for giving these Somalis their freedom," said Nur. "Only six Somalis remain in the Ethiopian jails, and we have agreed that they will soon be released."
Government officials, including the foreign minister, Yusuf Garad Omar, lawmakers and senior security officials, welcomed the released prisoners at Mogadishu Aden Adde International Airport.