Al-Qaeda kidnapper to be extradited to Mali: sources

14th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Malian national convicted of kidnapping three Spanish aid workers in Mauritania last year and handing them to Al-Qaeda will be extradited to his home country, security officials said Saturday.

Omar Sid'Ahmed Ould Hamma, sentenced in Mauritania in July to 12 years in prison with hard labour for the kidnappings, was removed from jail in Nouakchott on Friday, a Mauritanian security source said.

His whereabouts were unknown but he was still with authorities ahead of his "imminent extradition", the source said on condition of anonymity.

Malian sources added that the 52-year-old Hamma "was about to be extradited to Bamako".

The extradition appeared to be part of efforts to obtain the freedom of two Spaniards still in the hands of the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the North African branch of Osama bin Laden's terror network.

The group released 39-year-old Alicia Gamez in March but still holds Roque Pascual, 50, and Albert Vilaltam, 35, in northern Mali.

Four days ago Mauritanian Justice Minister Abidine Ould Elkheir visited the Mali capital for talks on the AQIM threat.

Hamma, also known as "Omar the Sahrawi", was convicted of kidnapping the three on November 29, 2009 while they were delivering aid on behalf of Barcelona-based group, Accio Solidaria.

AQIM has made millions of dollars from ransoms for kidnapped Westerners and drug trafficking across the Sahel region of North Africa.

A radical cell of the group that has executed two Western hostages is threatening the lives of the two Spanish hostages, sources told AFP Saturday.

The leader of the cell, Algerian Abdelhamid Abu Zeid, "is currently doing everything possible to endanger the lives of the two Spanish hostages," a Malian official involved in negotiating their release said.

AQIM announced in July that it had killed 78-year-old French hostage Michel Germaneau, abducted in northern Niger on April 19, in revenge for the killing of six of its members in a failed Mauritanian-French rescue raid.

© 2010 AFP

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