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U.S. indicts Mauritanian man for role in deadly Mali restaurant attacks


A Mauritanian man who received a death penalty in Mali for involvement in attacks that killed dozens including an American in 2015, was extradited to the United States to face a six-count indictment related to the same crime, the Justice Department said on Saturday.

Fawaz Ould Ahmed was taken into custody by the United States and brought to New York on Friday, the Justice Department said in a statement. Ahmed received a death penalty in Mali after pleading guilty to planning and executing the deadly attacks targeting Westerners.

Ahmed, 44, faces charges including the murder of U.S. citizen Anita Ashok Datar and conspiracy to provide support to U.S.-designated terrorist organizations Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al Mourabitoun, according to the Justice Department.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James R. Cho ordered that Ahmed be detained pending trial.

Ahmed “now faces justice in a U.S. courtroom for the carnage that was carried out allegedly at his direction,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in Brooklyn said in the statement.

Ahmed told a Malian court in 2020 he carried out an attack on La Terrace restaurant that killed five and that he was also involved in planning a raid at Hotel Byblos in the town of Sevare and another at Bamako’s Radisson Blu hotel.

The Justice Department said a total of 38 people had died in the three incidents.

“The defendant’s alleged actions — inhumanely plotting and carrying out ruthless terrorist attacks — were not forgotten and will not be forgiven,” said FBI assistant director-in-charge Michael Driscoll.

The attacks in 2015, just months after Islamist militants in Paris stormed the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and shot dead 12 people, marked a brazen new phase in jihadist operations across West Africa. The campaign hit top hotels and destinations frequented by Western tourists, aid workers and diplomats, which were no longer considered safe.

Ahmed told the Malian court that he did not regret the attacks and that he had been seeking revenge for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad printed in Charlie Hebdo.

He was captured in Bamako in 2016 as he was preparing to carry out another attack armed with grenades and a suitcase filled with weapons on behalf of al Mourabitoun, Reuters has reported, citing local authorities.