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Prosecutor calls for death sentences in al Qaeda murder trial

A Mauritanian prosecutor called Monday for the death sentence for three men standing trial over the murder of four French tourists in 2007. At the trial's opening on Sunday the defendants claimed to be "soldiers of al Qaeda".


AFP - A Mauritanian prosecutor on Monday asked the Nouakchott criminal court to sentence to death three young men accused of the murder of four French tourists in 2007. The court is set to pass judgement on  Tuesday.

The defendants -- Sidi Ould Sidna, 22, Maarouf Ould Haiba, 28, and Mohamed Ould Chabarnou, 29 -- are accused of having shot five French tourists east of the southern desert town on Aleg, killing four of them on December 24, 2007.

At the opening of the trial on Sunday, the three men presented themselves as "soldiers of Al-Qaeda" and acknowledged they that had been "trained in camps" of the organisation, but they denied killing the French tourists.

"I am a soldier of Al-Qaeda, I say it with pride. I have been trained in their camps," Ould Sidna, one of the three defendants, told the trial in the Mauritanian capital.

"I did not kill but I confess that it would have been a great honour for me if I had killed," said another, Ould Haiba.

The three men are notably accused of criminal association, belonging to an armed gang that carried out murders and terrorist attacks against citizens of a foreign country.

The court is trying a total of 12 Mauritanian men in connection with the murders, two in their absence because they are on the run.

Since the shootings of the French tourists, usually peaceful Mauritania has been subjected to several attacks, killings and kidnappings claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Ould Sidna and Ould Chabarnou were arrested in January 2008 in the west African country of Guinea-Bissau with the help of French intelligence.

Ould Haiba was detained shortly after in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott.

On Sunday morning, the same court 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" in Mauritania.

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

AQIM claimed responsibility for the murder in June 2009 of an American man in Nouakchott, whom the killers shot three times in the head in broad daylight.

The organisation is also currently negotiating the release of two Spaniards whom it kidnapped six months ago on the road between Nouadhibou in the north and Nouakchott.

The group is believed to be holding the Spanish pair in the north of neighbouring Mali.

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