Alleged Qaeda militants on trial over French tourist murders

23rd May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Three men believed linked to Al-Qaeda's North African branch went on trial in Mauritania on Sunday over the 2007 killing of four French tourists.

The three suspects are accused of shooting five French tourists on Christmas Eve 2007 near the city of Aleg in southern Mauritania. Four of the tourists were killed, while the fifth was seriously wounded.

All three of the suspects, who are Mauritanian, are suspected of having links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has claimed a series of attacks and kidnappings in the region.

They are suspected of being the triggermen in the killings, while nine others were also on trial for alleged complicity.

Two of the 12, however, remain on the run and were being tried in absentia, though all three alleged triggermen have been captured.

The court began examining the cases of the nine suspected accomplices first in the trial which was initially to begin on Tuesday, though all 10 of those arrested, including the alleged triggermen, were present.

Suspected triggermen Sidi Ould Sidna and Mohamed Ould Chabarnou were arrested in January 2008 in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau with the help of French intelligence.

The third, Maarouf Ould Haiba, was detained shortly after in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott.

On Sunday morning, the same court in Nouakchott sentenced a man charged with links to Al-Qaeda's North African wing to 10 years in prison.

Dahoud Ould Setti, who was also fined 731 euros (918 dollars), was accused of "creating his own terrorist organisation" and having been "in contact with the local branch of AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb)" in Mauritania.

Police arrested Setti in the capital in June 2008 after he had been on the run for a long period. He pleaded not guilty in his trial.

Security was tight as the court opened its proceedings on Sunday, with police blocking off streets in the city centre.

© 2010 AFP

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