CNN finds accused war criminal driving for Uber, Lyft

(CNN) - Could your next five-star Uber driver be a war criminal?

Yusef Abdi Ali drove for the ride-sharing companies until this week. He’s accused of a number of war crimes that Uber and Lyft seemed to miss in a background check. (Source: CNN)

For riders in Virginia, that was a real possibility until this week.

A CNN investigation found a driver, who is accused of committing horrific crimes in Somalia, working for both Uber and Lyft.

That information was easily found through a simple online search.

CNN investigated how the man got the OK to be a ride-share driver.

Yusef Abdi Ali is an accused war criminal facing a civil trial in Virginia, alleging he’s responsible for atrocities including torture and attempted murder, in Somalia in the 1980s.

Ali has been driving for Uber while awaiting trial.

Undercover CNN producers ordered an Uber in northern Virginia just last week.

Ali, listed on the app as an Uber Pro driver with a 4.89 rating, picked them up.

He also works for Lyft.

Just how Uber and Lyft missed the accusations exposes a potential hole in their screening process.

A simple Google search of Ali's name brings up article after article about his alleged brutality as a commander in the Somalian security force.

A major expose by CNN in 2016 found an alleged war criminal working as a security guard at Dulles International Airport. He was fired from the job shortly after the report aired.

An investigation by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation also shed light on Ali’s alleged time as a commander. Villagers told stories of Ali’s actions, the man they knew as Colonel Tukeh.

"Two men were caught, tied to a tree, oil was poured on them and they were burnt," one villager said. "I saw it with my own eyes."

Another villager recounted another story.

"He caught my brother. He tied him to military vehicle and dragged him behind. He said to us 'if you’ve got enough power, get him back.' He shredded him into pieces. That’s how he died."

Farhan Warfaa is a Somalian who claims in 1988, Ali tortured him for months then shot him twice, and ordered guards to bury him alive.

He survived and since no international court has jurisdiction, Warfaa has turned to civil court in the U.S. to seek damages.

In court filings Ali acknowledges he was a colonel in the Somali army, but denies having “attempted extra-judicial killing and torture” and denies directing any such actions by his “subordinates.”

Ali said he's been an Uber driver for a year and a half, and the background check was easy.

Last year Uber tightened its background checks after CNN found convicted felons were able to become ride-share drivers.

Both Uber and Lyft said their background checks include criminal offenses and driving incidents. The company that does the screening checker tells CNN that they rely on public criminal records that have been adjudicated in a court of law rather than unverified sources like Google search results.

Ali has never been convicted of a crime, only accused.

Both Uber and Lyft said they don't review social media or conduct Google searches as part of background checks on drivers.

But when CNN pointed out Ali's history with a simple Google search, both companies took immediate action to remove him.

Lyft banned Ali for life while Uber suspended him pending a review.

His trial is expected to wrap up this week.

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