ADDIS ABABA (AFP) — The Ethiopian government said on Thursday that its own troops had captured eight Kenyan terror suspects who were recently released amid accusations by rights groups of a rendition programme.

“They were all caught in Somalia along with fighters from the (Somali) Islamic Courts. There was no secret transportation,” Information Minister Birhan Hailu told AFP.

Eight Kenyans suspected of ties to Al Qaeda-linked Islamists returned to their homeland last week after being freed from Ethiopian jails where they had been held since their capture during Ethiopia’s 2006 invasion of Somalia.

A recent report by Human Rights Watch alleged that they were detained by Kenya at the border and rendered to the Ethiopians, who later tortured them and offered them up for interrogation to US intelligence agencies.

Ethiopia has flatly denied the watchdog’s allegations.

“All allegations of torture are untrue. It’s part of a smear campaign against a country which has never committed, and never will, such practices,” Birhan said.

“They were treated very well and were released upon request from the Kenyan government following negotiations,” he added.