4 Jihadists escape in deadly Mauritania prison break

Four Jihadist prisoners escaped the central prison in Mauritania’s capital, Nouakchott, on Sunday night after an exchange of gunfire there in which two national guards were killed, the interior ministry said.

“The National Guard has tightened its control over the prison and immediately started tracking down the fugitives in order to arrest them as soon as possible,” the ministry said in a statement published by the official news agency early on Monday.

Two other guards were wounded, it said. The identities of the escaped prisoners were not given. After the escape, which the ministry said took place at 9:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Sunday; it asked people to report any information that might help in arresting the fugitives.

According to a military official speaking on condition of anonymity, two of the pris­oners had been sentenced to death, while the other two were awaiting trial for membership of a terrorist organisation.

The same person said their vehicle had been found northeast of Nouakchott.The death penalty has not been enforced in Mau­ritania since 1987.

There have been no jihadist attacks in Mauritania since 2011, but the country shares a border with Mali, where a jihadist insurgency that began in 2012 has spread to other Sahel countries.

The absence of attacks on Mauritanian soil—as well as statements made in the United States—has fuelled suggestions that a secret non-aggression pact exists between Nouakchott and the jihadists.

The United States claimed to have found documents in 2011, in the Pakistani cache where former al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, was killed, that mentioned an attempt at rapprochement between the group and the Mauritanian government in 2010.

The government refutes this. In 2005, Islamist groups expanded in Algeria, a neigh­bour to the north, and Mauritania began to come under attack. —AFP

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