“At least two of the suspects had been accused by prosecutors this year of being members of the al-Qaida-linked terror group and of having undergone military training with it in Algeria.”
“Mauritania: Sleeper cell killed French,” by Ahmed Mohamed for the Associated Press:
NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania – Mauritania’s interior minister blamed a terrorist sleeper cell Wednesday for the Christmas Eve killing of four French family members visiting the African country.
Mauritania, on the edges of the Sahara desert, has been relatively free of terrorism by comparison with neighbors such as Algeria, where earlier this month a suicide bomber killed 37 people.
“The cowardly act of violence toward the French tourists was an act of terrorism,” said Mauritania’s Minister of the Interior Yall Zakaria Alassane in an address to lawmakers on Wednesday. “There are sleeper cells in Mauritania and one of them committed this act,” he said.
The manhunt for the three suspects that gunned down the four French tourists on
Monday has been expanded to neighboring Senegal. Helicopters patrolled the border.
Sidi Mouloud Ould Brahim, governor of the region where the attack occurred, said the three suspects crossed the border into Senegal late Tuesday. Senegalese officials could not confirm whether the suspects were in their territory.
Initially police had said the gunmen were attempting to rob the French family as they picnicked on the side of a road near Aleg, a small town 150 miles east of Mauritania’s capital, Nouakchott. But a day later, Mauritanian prosecutors called the slaying an act of terror and said the suspects are believed to be members of a regional al-Qaida-linked network.
A statement issued by the public prosecutor’s office in Mauritania’s capital on
Tuesday said the attack was carried out by three men who it said were known members of the
Algeria-based terror network al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa.
At least two of the suspects had been accused by prosecutors this year of being
members of the al-Qaida-linked terror group and of having undergone military training with it in Algeria.
Deutsche Welle reports five arrests have been made:
Mauritania’s public prosecutor says five Mauritanian Islamists have been arrested, in connection with the murder of four French tourists. Police on Wednesday were searching for three Islamists said to have defected to neighbouring Senegal. On Tuesday, the French Foreign Ministry had countered speculation that the murderers might have terrorist motives. However, the Mauritanian authorities say they believe the shooting may have been the work of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – a Sunni Islamist militia which aims to overthrow the Algerian government and institute an Islamic state. The attackers shot the five French tourists on Monday when they stopped their car on the roadside on the way to Mali.