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Ex-Somali Army Officer Facing US Civil Trial Over Human Rights Abuses


Two prisoners peer through the bars of their cell in Mogadishu on Friday, Jan. 29, 1993 at the former Criminal Investigation Division, the department that probed so-called political crimes.

A resident of Virginia is the subject of a lawsuit accusing him of human rights abuses while he was a high-ranking officer during the brutal reign of former Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

A civil trial began this week in a U.S. federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, against Yusuf Abdi Ali, in a suit brought against him by Farhan Mohamoud Tani Warfaa, who says he was tortured and nearly died in 1988 at the hands of Ali.

The lawsuit says Ali was commander of the Somali army's Fifth Brigade, which patrolled the breakaway region of Somaliland. Ali allegedly rounded up Warfaa and other young men in late 1987 for interrogation over a missing water tanker. Warfaa says he was detained for several months, during which time he was regularly stripped naked and beaten. In the last interrogation, Warfaa says, Ali shot him several times and ordered his soldiers to bury him, believing he was dead.

But the soldiers realized he was alive and smuggled him to his family in exchange for a bribe.

Ali fled to Canada after Barre's regime was toppled in 1991. He was deported to the United States after his alleged war crimes were revealed in a television documentary. He has been living in Virginia for more than two decades, working at one time as a security guard at a Washington-area airport. His lawyer has denied the charges.

The lawsuit was brought on Warfaa's behalf by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, which seeks to bring alleged war criminals to justice

A similar lawsuit brought a $21 million judgement against former Somali Prime Minister Mohammed Al Samantar, who had also taken up residence in Virginia after the fall of the Barre regime.