Mauritania: Salafists Renounce Al-Qaeda, Seek Release


By Jemal Oumar

A group of salafist prisoners accused of terrorist acts made an appeal Monday (August 13th) for their release, saying they renounced al-Qaeda’s ideology.

The 10-prisoner group asked Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to pardon them on Eid al-Fitr, according to statement by the prisoners obtained by Magharebia. The group also appealed to scholars who took part in the last dialogue that led to the release of prisoners who made ideological revisions.


The salafist group said they reminded “the scholars who took part in dialogue with them in 2010 of the pardon which the scholars promised to all those who renounce al-Qaeda terrorist ideology. However, three years have passed since the first batch of them was released and the rest are still in prison although they have already renounced al-Qaeda ideology.”

Didi Ould Bezeid, one of the salafist prisoners who signed the statement, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his involvement in the killing of American aid worker Christopher Leggett three years ago.

In a statement, Ould Bezeid said that “the prisoners accused of belonging to al-Qaeda have two bitter options: if they kept silent, it would be said that their silence is a sign of acceptance of prison, and if they spoke and denied the accusations, it would be said that they want to be released to return to al-Qaeda hideouts.”

Ould Bezeid reiterated his renunciation of al-Qaeda’s ideology: “I have a number of justifications that don’t make believe in al-Qaeda’s takfirist ideology or its approach in life.”

“These reasons include the fact that I’m not convinced of that ideology and can’t endure risks; something that makes me a coward,” he added. “I’m also attached to the pleasures of this world, and this is in addition to my behaviour at prison, which everyone attests to its straightforwardness.”

Sidi Mohamed Ould Younis, manager of Mauritania’s Sahara Media website, says that “this group’s call under these particular circumstances is part of attempts to exploit the approach of religious occasions in which the president usually grants pardon to some prisoners. It’s also an occasion to remind the scholars of their previous promise to secure pardon for those who renounce extremist ideology.”

However, Ould Younis added that “there is another possibility making those prisoners who are accused of committing acts in the name of al-Qaeda feel bitter and disappointed: it’s the fact that al-Qaeda didn’t demand their release, which means that it is rejecting their services.”

According to Ould Younis, that could mean “there was no co-ordination between those young people and al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and they might have not been tasked by al-Qaeda to do these terrorist acts, and that they are just a group of young people embracing the group’s ideology.

The journalist pointed to past prisoner swaps with al-Qaeda, including the release of “Omar al-Sahraoui who kidnapped the Spanish hostages in northern Mauritania on November 29th, 2010, and Abderahmane Ould Medou who helped kidnap the two Spanish nationals and one Italian national from Tindouf camps.”

“This group is classified in the second place behind the more dangerous group whose members were sentenced to life imprisonment, including Khadim Ould Semane, Sidi Ould Sidna and Ould Chebarnou,” Ould Ibrahim added.

In a related development, Mauritania’s reported Wednesday that “a group of salafist prisoners who served half of their prison terms, and some of those who had previously taken part in dialogue with scholars, will be released”.


The Magharebia web site is sponsored by the United States Africa Command, the military command responsible for supporting and enhancing US efforts to promote stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

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