Zim used as CIA transit base: Report

DESPITE loaded anti-American rhetoric, it has emerged that Zimbabwe may have been used as a transit base for several United States intelligence agency, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), terror suspects in secret and illegal renditions.

Chief Reporter

In a report, some of it made public on Tuesday, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa were some of the Southern African countries involved in the CIA’s rendition.

Other African countries are Libya, Mauritania and Somalia, while Morocco hosted a CIA prison.

The report says Zimbabwe is one of 54 countries exposed in a US Senate Intelligence Committee report as having assisted the former President George W Bush’s administration in a programme that included torture of terrorism suspects.

According to the report, terror suspects, Fahad al-Bahli, a Saudi national, Ibrahim Habaci and Arif Ulusam both from Turkey, Khalifa Abdi Hassan, a Kenyan national and Mahmud Sardar Issa, from Sudan were arrested in Malawi on different occasions in 2003 in a joint operation involving the CIA and Malawi’s National Intelligence Bureau.

They were all suspected of having al-Qaeda links and were initially held in Malawi. They were secretly flown to Harare where they were held for almost a month.

“There have been no known judicial cases or investigations in Zimbabwe relating to its participation in CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations,” a report released by the Open Society Foundation says.

The report says Zimbabwe had detained extraordinarily rendered suspects.

The terror suspects were then transferred to Sudan, but released after it was established that there was no evidence linking them to al-Qaeda.

Efforts to get a comment from Foreign Affairs ministry were fruitless for the whole of yesterday.

Zimbabwe has often portrayed itself as an anti-Western country and its involvement in the US extraordinary rendition raises questions whether the country’s attitude to the West is genuine.

The report said the then outgoing US ambassador to Malawi denied the involvement of US agents.

The US committee’s chairperson, Senator Dianne Feinstein, tabled the explosive report on Tuesday.

“This document examines the CIA’s secret detention of at least 119 individuals and the use of coercive interrogation techniques — in some cases amounting to torture,” Feinstein said.

“Under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured.”

The 480-page summary of a 6 000-page investigation from the committee includes graphic details about sexual threats, waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques meted out to captured militants since the September 11 2001 terror attacks.

The report compiled over several years is the first independent assessment of the CIA’s “Rendition, Detention and Interrogation” programme.

Bush ended many aspects of the programme before leaving office and President Barack Obama swiftly banned so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”, which critics say are torture, after his 2009 inauguration.

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