Somali transitional government on Thursday confirmed local media reports about the arrest of Mohamed Omar Habeeb, the former mayor of Mogadishu, by Ethiopian troops on Wednesday.
Habeeb, a close ally of the resigned Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, was arrested by Ethiopian troops Wednesday after the former Mayor refused to hand over weapons and the mayor's house to the new Banadir administration, said Muse Nur Amin, the Interior Minister, in a press briefing in Mogadishu.
"He (Habeeb) will be questioned about the whereabouts of the weapons and remanded in custody until he surrenders the weapons," the minister told reporters.
The news of the arrest of Habeeb by Ethiopian troops surfaced Wednesday but Somali government officials remained tight-lipped about it.
The former Mayor, popularly known as Mohamed Dhere, has been the mayor of the Somali capital since 2007 but was dismissed by Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein late last year, accusing him of incompetence, embezzlement and insubordination.
The dismissal of Habeeb worsened relations between the prime minister and President Yusuf who resigned Monday as a result of the political disagreement between him and Hussein as well as mounting international pressure.
It is not clear where the former Mogadishu strongman is currently being held or whether he will be tried.
Habeeb was one of Somalia's faction leaders who were overpowered by the Islamists in mid 2006, when an Islamist movement took over control of the south and central parts of the country.
However, six months later Habeeb was able to return to his stronghold of Jawhar, the provincial capital of Middle Shabelle region in central Somalia, with the backing of Ethiopian troops who helped Somali government forces topple the Islamist administration.
(Xinhua News Agency January 2, 2009)