Uganda frees Somali minister: army

KAMPALA: Ugandan authorities on Wednesday released Somalia's junior defence minister Youssuf Mohamed Siad after he was arrested by mistake overnight in the capital Kampala, the army spokesman said.

Siad had entered Uganda by road from neighbouring Kenya, raising suspicions of security officials in the East African country, currently hosting a regional security meeting and about to celebrate its independence day.

"He was released this morning (Wednesday). He was held comfortably through the night," Felix Kulayigye told AFP. "Once we realised who he was, he was not treated as a prisoner."

Authorities launched investigations upon receiving information on Siad's entry into the country, Kulayigye said.

"We followed him up. After the arrest was made he was identified as a minister," he explained. "Certainly he should have come by air. He should have notified us and travelled as a visiting foreign official."

A powerful Mogadishu warlord and former member of Islamic Courts Union which ruled the country in 2006, Siad is now a key member of Somalia's internationally-backed transition government that is battling Islamic insurgents.

Asked whether he would be staying in the country or returning home, Kulayigye said: "I don't know what his plans are, but he is now a free man."