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Somali forces lure and arrest Islamist leader Sheikh Aweys

Sheikh Aweys, a former army colonel and a hero of Somalia's 1977-78 war with Ethiopia, is on the United States and the United Nations Security Council terrorism sanctions lists, but no bounty has been placed on his head.

MOGADISHU //Somali security forces arrested on Saturday a veteran Islamist leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, after he flew to Mogadishu for talks with government officials.

Sheikh Aweys, a former army colonel and a hero of Somalia's 1977-78 war with Ethiopia, is on the United States and the United Nations Security Council terrorism sanctions lists, but no bounty has been placed on his head.

"There was a big argument that turned into a fist fight between the security forces who arrested Sheikh Aweys and members of the delegation accompanying him, who resisted the arrest," a senior police officer said yesterday.

The reason for the arrest was not immediately clear.

Now in his late 70s, Sheikh Aweys was a top leader of the Islamic Courts Union, a radical group that ruled Somalia in 2006.

He flew to the capital on the understanding he would hold talks with government officials, said Yusuf Mohamed Siyad, a member of Sheikh Aweys's clan and a general who served briefly as defence minister in the transitional government before defecting in 2010.

"The government has broken its promises and arrested Sheikh Aweys and his delegation," he said.