Police shoot-out fails to uncover Mauritanian fugitive
A fugitive charged with killing four French tourists but who escaped from a court toilet again evaded security forces in a Mauritania shoot-out.
NOUAKCHOTT, April 4, 2008 - A fugitive charged with killing four
French tourists but who escaped from a court toilet again evaded security
forces in a Mauritania shoot-out Thursday, police said.
Officials told AFP they had "localised" and "surrounded" Sidi Ould Sidna in
Nouakchott's Ksar district, but after an exchange of gunfire, the man arrested
was identified as a young member of Ould Sidna's entourage.
Ould Sidna is suspected of relations with a group of Algerian origin linked
to the Al-Qaeda network and active since early 2007, notably in Algeria and
its desert neighbours Mauritania and Mali.
Police said no-one was hurt, but they were still trying to re-capture their
target -- already the subject of a massive west African manhunt after December
24 killings which forced the cancellation of the Dakar rally.
Several sources said police detained members of Ould Sidna's family,
including four sisters, while the prosecutor's office issued a wanted poster
accompanied by a "major bounty" Thursday.
Three court officials were also punished, amid suspicions of an inside job
allowing Ould Sidna to remove his handcuffs during a washrooms trip on
Wednesday before slipping out of the building unnoticed.
An assistant prosecutor, who ordered the prisoner to be taken to court for
a hearing, was dismissed, and the court's head of security has been replaced,
while the examining magistrate has been removed pending a new appointment.
A police guard and the court registrar, said to be the last to see Ould
Sidna, were additionally taken in for questioning Wednesday, with the pair
still under interrogation as the pursuit moved to Ksar.
Ould Sidna was originally arrested in Guinea Bissau in January alongside
another suspect, Mohamed Ould Chabarnoux, and subsequently extradited. A third
accused, Maarouve Mohamed Habib, is also on the run.
The trio face terror charges after the adventure tourists were shot dead
near Aleg in southern Mauritania, with a fifth badly wounded.