Accused War Criminals Make Home in U.S.

What if somebody's nightmare was your next-door neighbor?

ByABC News
February 17, 2010, 5:45 PM

Feb. 19, 2010 — -- For many, mention of Somalia conjures images of a smoldering Blackhawk helicopter and AK-47-wielding pirates loaded onto an antique skiff.

What may not come to mind as quickly is the idea that the tipping point for Somalia's downward spiral into an international no-go zone may have come decades before U.S. troops landed on a Somali beachfront in the mid 1990s. It may have come during the regime of military dictator Siad Barre.

Barre and the men under him have been accused by the United Nations of committing horrific war crimes throughout the '70s, '80s and early '90s that the country is still reeling from.

Like citizens of other countries ravaged by brutal regimes, many refugees who survived Barre's rule came to America to start over and live quietly among the population.

But shockingly, along with refugees and victims of war crimes, some alleged war criminals themselves have emigrated to the United States, escaping retribution for the monstrous acts they may have committed at home.

Men accused of human rights abuses from Somalia to Venezuela have laid their own claims to the American dream and now enjoy the same freedoms they're accused of trying to take away from their own people. It may seem impossible, but one of these men -- some allegedly responsible for mass murder, torture and the destruction of entire populations -- might literally be living next door.

Bashe Yousuf was one of the lucky ones. He survived Barre's notorious use of summary execution, rape, torture and imprisonment without trial to control what the dictator viewed as a dissident population in the northwest part of Somalia, today known as Somaliland.

Yousuf was a businessman in Hargeisa, the largest city in Somaliland. The area was particularly targeted by the regime for destruction. Along with his work in business, Yousuf said he was part of a group of community workers trying to clean up hospitals and obtain medical supplies.

Yousuf claims soldiers under the command of Barre's minister of defense, Gen. Mohammed Samantar, arrested him after his group's actions were deemed acts of political defiance.

"The government -- you know, took it as we were a political organization trying to challenge their power and put us all in jail," Yousuf said in a recent interview with ABC News.