Eight people have been given two to five year sentences by a Mauritanian court for aiding and supporting the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) organisation.
Magharebia reported that the eight were sentenced by the Nouakchott Supreme Court on Sunday. Two Salafi Muslims (those who support jihad or holy war) were sentenced to five years in prison while another AQIM supporter received three years and the remaining five were given two years each.
“They supplied the chief fighter of the Battalion of the Masked with communication devices, quantities of explosives and a SA-7 missile, an act which is punishable under the Mauritanian anti-terrorism law,” the court said.
The prosecutor told the court that “some of them helped Abul Abbas, aka. ‘Balor’, who is the leader of the Battalion of the Masked that is based in the desert, by providing logistical tools that helped him launch attacks against the Sahel countries’ armies and kidnap and kill European and US nationals, and blow up European and US diplomatic headquarters.”
Abdellahi Ould Hamadi “was receiving instructions from Sidi Ould Sidna who was convicted in the killing of French nationals in the city of Aleg, Mauritania, in December 2007,” the prosecutor added. “He was also in touch with the terrorists who took part in the Tourine operation that was carried out by al-Qaeda against the Mauritanian army in September 2008.”
Hamadi confessed to the charges, saying that “it’s very normal to see an arms shipment or smuggled contraband where we live in the desert.”
“I received an amount of 25 million ouguiyas (US$89 000) from Balor to hand it to some collaborators with AQIM. However, I was arrested by the Mauritanian security forces at a time when I was planning to surrender and report al-Qaeda,” Hamadi said.
Mauritania is one of several countries in Africa’s Sahara Desert region where al Qaeda-linked fighters have attacked foreigners and local security forces, and has joined in recent joint military operations targeting them.