A British man who claimed to be heading on vacation to a rebel-held town in Somalia has been arrested in the country's capital on suspicion of links to a terrorist group, officials said Wednesday.
Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, a spokesman in Somalia for the African Union military force, named the arrested man as Clive Denis Everton, born in 1966. Everton was detained by Somali police at Mogadishu airport after traveling from Britain via Kenya.
Ankunda said police had discovered suspicious items in his luggage, including 30 CDs, but did not give any further explanation. He said Everton had planned to travel to Kismayo, a rebel-held port town in southern Somalia.
In an interview broadcast on Somalia's RBC TV, Everton said he had hoped to travel overland to Kismayo from Mombasa, Kenya, but had been unable to carry out the trip.
"I just wanted somewhere peaceful, sunny ... nice," Everton said, insisting his trip was intended for recreation.
Britain's foreign ministry in London said it was investigating reports that a British passport holder had been arrested on suspicion of possible connections to terrorism.
Diplomats have recently warned that dozens of British and American citizens, including some with no family ties to Somalia, are traveling to the country to fight alongside the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab. Britain's Royal United Services Institute, a military think tank, estimates about 200 foreigners are active in the country.
More than 40 people have traveled from the U.S. to Somalia to join al-Shabab since 2007, and 15 of them have died, according to a report from the U.S. House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee.
At least 21 men have left Minnesota, which has a community of more than 32,000 Somalis, during that period and the FBI has confirmed that at least two of them died in Somalia as suicide bombers. A U.S. citizen is suspected in a third suicide bombing and another is under investigation in connection with a fourth bombing on Oct. 29 that killed 15 people.
At an international conference on Somalia last month, British Prime Minister David Cameron warned that al-Shabab could export terrorism to Europe and the United States.
Associated Press writer Jason Straziuso in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.