- A former Somali military chief got jobs driving for the ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft, despite allegations that he committed manifold war crimes in the 1980s, according to a new CNN investigation.
- Yusuf Abdi Ali was publicly accused of torture and burning civilians alive as a general under the regime of the dictator Siad Barre.
- Ali has said the allegations he is a war criminal are “totally baseless.”
- A man told Canada’s CBC network in 1992 that he watched Ali kill the man’s brother by tying him to his military vehicle and driving off, which “shredded him into pieces.”
- Undercover CNN reporters found Ali driving for Uber in Virginia this month. Ali was an Uber Pro Diamond driver rated 4.89 out of 5.
- On Monday, opening statements were read in a Virginia court, where Ali is standing trial over his actions in Somali. He is accused of shooting a man and leaving him for dead during an interrogation.
- Uber says Ali is suspended pending an investigation. Ali also drove for Lyft until September. Lyft has barred him from the service.
- Visit Business Insider for more stories.
A man accused of committing war crimes while serving as a Somali military commander during the African nation’s brutal civil war later moved to the US and got a job driving for the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft.
According to a CNN investigation, Yusuf Abdi Ali, a driver for Uber in Virginia since November 2017, is a former officer in the Somali army who is accused of being involved in killing more than 100 men while serving under the dictator Siad Barre.
Eyewitnesses from the Somali war zone told journalists from Canada’s CBC network in 1992 that Ali committed atrocities during the civil war in the 1980s.
“Two men were caught, tied to a tree,” one said. “Oil was poured on them and they were burnt alive. I saw it with my own eyes. I cut away their remains.”
Another told CBC: “He caught my brother. He tied him to a military vehicle and dragged him behind. He shredded him into pieces. That’s how he died.”
After the CBC documentary, Ali was deported from Canada and moved to the US. According to CNN, he worked as a security guard until 2016, when CNN found him and confronted him about the allegations. He was fired soon after.
Undercover reporters from CNN ordered an Uber ride with Ali as their driver this month – and recorded him in secret.
Ali drove a white Nissan Altima and was an “Uber Pro Diamond” driver with a 4.89 rating.
In the report published Tuesday, CNN said Ali had been driving for Uber for 18 months and had also worked for Lyft.
The undercover footage shows Ali telling CNN reporters Uber “just want your background check, that’s it,” and that if “you apply tonight, maybe after two days it will come, you know, everything.”
Business Insider understands that Ali passed TSA and FBI background checks.
“This new continuous checking technology will strengthen our screening process and improve safety,” Uber’s vice president of safety and insurance, Gus Fuldner, said at the time.
CNN previously discovered in 2016 that Uber and Lyft had hired drivers with serious felony records, some of whom went on to be accused of sexually assaulting passengers.
A man saying he was one of Ali’s victims brought legal proceedings against him in a US court in 2004.
On Monday – 15 years later – a court in Alexandria, Virginia, heard opening statements from lawyers for Ali and the man, Farhan Mohamoud Tani Warfaa.
Warfaa has accused Ali of shooting him and leaving him for dead during an interrogation at his village in Somalia in 1988.
Ali was named by Warfaa’s lawyer as the leader of the Somali army’s 5th Brigade. Warfaa said Ali was known to soldiers as Colonel Tukeh, or Colonel Crow.
Ali has denied all allegations of war crimes, calling them “totally baseless.” Business Insider has contacted Ali’s lawyer for comment.
Business Insider understands Ali was not flagged on any of the government watchlists and sanctions lists searched during Uber’s screening process.
An Uber spokeswoman told Business Insider:
“Drivers must undergo a driving and criminal history background check reviewing local, state and national records, and we evaluate eligibility in accordance with criteria set by local laws.”
Lyft told CNN that it was barring Ali from its service but that he had not driven for the company since September.