Court begins trial of Qaeda-linked suspects
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Several suspects with links to al Qaeda will face terrorism charges in Mauritania in a trial that begins Sunday, including three men charged with killing four French tourists in 2007, according to judicial sources.
AFP - A Mauritanian court will on Sunday begin the trials of suspected terrorists, including three men accused of murdering four French tourists late in 2007, a judicial source said Friday.
"Seven cases, including those of the suspected killers of the French tourists, are on the agenda of the trial that begins Sunday before the criminal court of the tribunal in Nouakchott," the source told AFP.
Three men affiliated to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are accused of having shot five French tourists on December 24, 2007, east of the town of Aleg in southern Mauritania, killing four and seriously wounding the fifth.
The suspects are Sidi Ould Sidna and Mohamed Ould Chabarnou, arrested in January 2008 in Guinea-Bissau by local police in cooperation with French intelligence, and Maarouf Ould Haiba, held shortly afterwards in Nouakchott.
The criminal court will also try nine other people charged with "complicity" or "collaboration" in the murders, the source said.
The killing of the French tourists was followed three days later by an ambush on Mauritanian soldiers in the north of the country, in which three were killed.
Since then, the west African desert nation has seen several attacks, killings and kidnappings of Westerners claimed by AQIM.
AQIM emerged from a radical Algerian movement, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, and has in the past four years extended its activities into western Sahel nations, including Mauritania, Niger and Mali.
It claims to be the north African affiliate of Al-Qaeda.
The same court session on Sunday will examine six other cases, including the "shootings outside the Israeli embassy and a nearby discotheque in Nouakchott on February 1, 2008," as well "individual cases", the source said.
The suspected terrorists have taken part in a spiritual dialogue launched in January at the Nouakchott prison with government-mandated theologians including Mohamed El-Hassen, one of the country's top spiritual leaders.
El-Hassen said that the three Mauritanians held for the murder of the French tourists in 2007 had "proclaimed their repentance" as an outcome of the spiritual dialogue.