Mauritanian security forces recaptured a fugitive Al Qaeda member accused of killing four French tourists, in a security sweep on Wednesday that also caught four more suspected militants, the chief prosecutor said.
The December 24 killing of the French tourists was followed by a shooting attack against the Israeli embassy in the capital Nouakchott in February, and raised fears of an increase in Islamic militant violence in the western Saharan state.
Those arrested in Wednesday's early morning security operation included Sidi Ould Sidna, a key suspect in the slaying of the French tourists, whose escape from police custody outside a courtroom this month led to a nationwide manhunt.
Chief prosecutor Mohamed Abadllahi Ould Tiyib said Sidna was detained along with another key suspect, Khadim Ould Semane.
“The two most important suspects have been arrested. I have seen them. They are in detention at the gendarmerie,” he said.
A security source said three others were also detained.
“Several searches are under way and those detained have been transferred to a high security location,” said the source, who asked not to be named.
The spate of attacks, claimed by Al Qaeda's North African branch, prompted the cancellation of the Dakar rally for the first time in its history, triggering concerns that Al Qaeda was extending its operations into Mauritania from neighbouring Algeria and Morocco.