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m5491 BC-MN-SomaliWriter-Want 1stLd-Writethru 10-25 0494

Authorities: Somali poet accused in sex case has fled to Africa

Eds: ADDS that authorities could bring Isse back to Minn. if he is found.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Criminal investigators here have accused a noted Somali writer of fleeing to Africa to avoid prosecution on charges that he molested a 10-year-old girl in Minnesota.

A criminal complaint filed in federal court on Tuesday claims Mahamud Abdullahi Isse, 72, has fled to the Republic of Djibouti where he "has been seen and interviewed by local reporters."

The complaint charges Isse with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

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Authorities will continue to hunt for Isse. If they find him, it’s possible he could be brought back to Minnesota to face the local charges, said Paul McCabe, an FBI spokesman in Minneapolis.

The affidavit was filed by Hennepin County deputy sheriff Donald Ennenga, who also serves as a special deputy U.S. Marshal and is a member of the multi-agency Minnesota Violent Crime Fugitive Task Force.

Isse was to stand trial June 25 in Hennepin County on one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He never showed up, and a state warrant was issued for his arrest.

Richard Cohen, the St. Paul attorney who planned to represent Isse at trial, said he hasn’t had contact with Isse since about a week before the trial.

Ennenga said in the federal affidavit that Isse "fled the Minneapolis area shortly after learning that uniformed Hennepin County deputy sheriffs were looking to arrest him the last week of June 2007."

Isse is a popular poet, playwright, songwriter and actor. His role in Somali literature has been compared to Shakespeare’s place in English, and he gained fame in the 1960s for his open criticism of corruption in the Somali government.

Isse has lived in the Twin Cities for about a decade.

According to the criminal complaint in Hennepin County District Court, Isse had sex with the 10-year-old between January 1996 and January 1997. The alleged victim, now 21, came to the U.S. from Somalia in 1995 and lived in Minneapolis with a guardian. Isse visited the guardian and, on at least one occasion, got into the girl’s bed and molested her.

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The girl moved out of state in 1997 but visited the Twin Cities in December 2005 and ran into Isse. She told authorities that he gave her his phone number and told her he wanted to see her again.

The woman recorded a phone conversation in which Isse allegedly admitted having sex with her when she was a child. Isse was questioned by police and claimed his comments were "only a joke," according to an affidavit. But eventually, he admitted to fondling the woman and engaging in other sex acts, the affidavit said.

Earlier this month, Isse was added to the county’s "Ten Most Wanted" list.

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