Home / Tech / A former Somali army commander accused of war crimes has been working as an Uber driver in Virginia

A former Somali army commander accused of war crimes has been working as an Uber driver in Virginia

Yusuf Abdi Ali CNN Uber

  • A former Somali military chief got a job driving for services like Uber and Lyft, despite allegations that he committed manifold war crimes in the 1980s.
  • Yusuf Abdi Ali was publicly accused of torture and burning civilians alive as a general under the regime of dictator Siad Barre.
  • Ali says that the allegations that he is a war criminal are “totally baseless.”
  • A man told Canada’s CBC network in 1992 that he watched Ali kill his brother by tying him to his military vehicle and driving off, which “shredded him into pieces.”
  • In May 2019, Ali was found by undercover CNN reporters driving for Uber in Virginia. Ali was an Uber Pro Diamond driver rated 4.89 out of 5 — but has now been suspended.
  • On Monday opening statements were read in a Virginia court, where Ali is standing trial for his actions in Somali. He is accused of shooting a man and leaving him for dead during an interrogation. 
  • Uber says Ali is now suspended pending an investigation. Ali also drove for Lyft until September 2018. Lyft has banned him.
  • Visit Business Insider for more stories.

A former Somali military commander accused of committing war crimes during the African nation’s brutal civil later moved to the US and got a job driving for Uber and Lyft.

According to a CNN investigation, Yusuf Abdi Ali, a driver for Uber in Virginia since November 2017, is in fact a former officer in the Somali army, and is accused of being involved in killing more than 100 men while serving under dictator Siad Barre.

Eyewitnesses from the Somali war zone told journalists from Canada’s CBC network in 1992 that Ali himself committed atrocities during the civil war in the 1980s.

Ali Uber CNN

“Two men were caught, tied to a tree. Oil was poured on them and they were burnt alive. I saw it with my own eyes. I cut away their remains,” one said.

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.”

Read more: An Uber driver was stabbed to death in New York City, and it shows a big safety problem the company needs to solve

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 in May 2019 — and recorded him in secret. 

Ali drove a white Nissan Altima and was an “Uber Pro Diamond” driver with a 4.89 rating.

Yusuf Abdi Ali

In the report published Tuesday, CNN detailed how Ali has been driving for Uber for 18 months, and has also worked for Lyft. 

The undercover footage shows Ali telling CNN reporters Uber “just want your background check, that’s it. If you apply tonight maybe after two days it will come, you know, everything.”

In July 2018, Uber said it had started continuous background checks for existing drivers.

Ex Somalian President Major Gen. Siad Barre.

“This new continuous checking technology will strengthen our screening process and improve safety,” Uber’s vice president of safety and insurance Gus Fuldne said at the time.

CNN previously discovered in 2016 that Uber and Lyft had hired murderers on parole and “a convicted felon who was later convicted for sexually assaulting an Uber passenger” as drivers. 

Read more: Uber and Lyft drivers explain why they are striking

A man who says he was one of Ali 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 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 fifth brigade. Warfaa said Ali was known to soldiers as “Colonel Tukeh” (“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 also contacted Uber for comment, but is yet to receive a reply. Lyft told CNN that Ali is now banned and has not driven for them since September 2018.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The rise and fall of Donald Trump’s $365 million airline