ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ten men were found guilty Tuesday by an Ethiopian court of plotting terror attacks with Islamist extremist rebels from neighboring Somalia.
Judge Bahiru Darecha said the group was making plans and getting supplies to attack political and economic targets in Ethiopia. Eleven men were originally charged with the terror-related crimes but the judge acquitted one person. Six of the men found guilty were charged in absentia. Sentencing will be carried out on Jan. 15.
Prosecutors said the suspects, who include one Kenyan national, formed a cell that worked with Somalia’s Islamist radicals, al-Shabab. Al-Shabab is affiliated with al-Qaeda.
The verdicts come amid signs of increasing militancy in the East African nation. Ethiopian troops moved into Somalia last year to fight al-Shabab.
Among those convicted is a Kenyan national, Hassan Jarso. When first charged in May, Jarso pleaded guilty to the charges but protested the assertion that he is a senior leader of the group.
“We did plan the attacks and to open the (training) camp but none of it was realized,” Jarso had told the court.
He added that he was waiting for money from al-Qaeda agents to establish the camp and start a militant group, based in Ethiopia’s Oromia region.
The other three convicts denied the charges. They are all religious teachers. In their defense they alleged that they were beaten by police to confess and sign documents and that exhibits were planted in their houses.
Ethiopia’s late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in April told parliament that militants had formed al-Qaida cells in the country’s southern Arsi and Bale areas.
Ethiopia’s military campaign against militants in Somalia from 2006-2009 angered al-Shabab.
There are signs of rising Islamist militancy in Ethiopia. In late April four demonstrators were killed in a clash, after security forces arrested a Muslim religious leader in the Oromia region.
Ethiopia’s Federal Ministry on May 3 issued a statement accusing an unnamed group of trying to declare jihad against the government and working to incite violence in a number of mosques across the country. The statement said a dozen suspects were recruited by the group from the country’s Oromia, Tigray and Amhara regions to carry out illegal activities.
The government also expelled two Arabs who flew in from the Middle East on May 4. The government said the pair went to a mosque and tried to incite violence.