Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mauritania Arrests 7 People in Plot

Mauritania arrests 7 Qaeda suspects: security services

Updated at: 0800 PST, Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NOUAKCHOTT--Seven suspected members of Al-Qaeda's North African wing have been arrested in the Mauritanian desert, a senior official in the security services told media on Monday.

Soldiers apprehended the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) suspects last week in the desert near the border with Mali and Algeria, said the official on condition of anonymity.

"The men were armed, they numbered seven and they were travelling in vehicles that included a truck used by AQIM terrorists," he said.

But a city councillor in the Malian city of Timbuktu, Dina Ould Daya, said those arrested were members of his family -- all civilians, and not Islamists -- who were arrested on Malian soil en route to repairing a broken truck.

They were arrested on Friday, Ould Daya told media, and they included Elly Ould Natmo, a master mechanic, as well as four apprentices, a 16-year-old youth and a deaf mute.

"They are relatives," said another member of the family, Sidi Mohamed Oudl Amed. "I acknowledged they had some weapons, because here in the desert, when you travel far, you take a gun, because you never know."

The arrests took place near Lemgheity, where in June 2005 an attack by the group -- then known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat -- left 15 Mauritanian soldiers dead.

Surrounded, the suspects turned themselves in to the soldiers who had been monitoring their movements as part of a broader surveillance of the area, "a true lair for terrorists and traffickers," the source said.

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