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Muslim leaders in Kenya protest sheikh's arrest

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- Muslim leaders in Kenya have protested the arrest by Kenyan authorities of a sheikh, Ahmed Hassan Mursal, in the northeastern Kenyan town of Mandera, which borders Somalia and Ethiopia.

At a news conference in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, a Kenyan opposition politician, Maalim Farah, described the sheikh as a "prominent scholar and respected man in the Islamic community."

Farah said the sheikh was arrested outside the main mosque in Mandera on Saturday, and was still in Kenyan police custody -- possibly awaiting transfer to Nairobi.

Kenya's police spokesman, Dola Indidis, issued a statement Monday saying one person had been arrested in Mandera "for security reasons" but denied Kenyan press reports that 18 people in Mandera had been arrested on the "orders" of the FBI.

Reacting to these reports, the U.S. Embassy in Kenya said the FBI had "no operational involvement" in the reported arrests.

The FBI, the embassy said in a statement, could not order arrests in countries outside of the United States, though it could pass on information which authorities could choose to act on.

The embassy said it did not know if any FBI information was involved here.

But Muslim leaders say Kenya's Criminal Investigations Department, in charge of such arrests, had told them it was acting on behalf of the FBI.

The Muslim leaders said the sheikh's nickname, "Sheikh Sudan", came about because he went to school in Sudan, and that for the past ten years, he had been running services, including an orphanage in Mandera, funded by reputable children's charities.

Some other reports have misidentified Mursal as Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, a senior al Qaeda member.


• Kenya

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