CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea said on Thursday it had arrested a death row fugitive with links to al Qaeda near the border with Guinea Bissau and sent him back to Mauritania.
The case underscores the weakness of border controls in the fragile West African region amid fears of further attacks in major cities after al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) fighters killed 30 people in Burkina Faso last week.
During his three weeks on the run, Cheikh Ould Saleck is believed to have travelled about 500 km (312 miles) through three West African countries, before being captured at a checkpoint in Boke in southern Guinea on Tuesday.
“He came through Senegal, then Guinea Bissau, before arriving in Guinea,” said police spokesman Mamadou Alpha Barry.
“During questioning it emerged that he was seeking to get to Algeria,” he said.
Ould Saleck was awaiting execution for his part in an alleged Al Qaeda plot to assassinate Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz when he escaped from prison in Nouakchott on December 31.
Mauritanian officials were not immediately available for comment on the case.
The governor of Guinea’s Boke General Siba Severin Louhalamou said Ould Saleck was accompanied by at least two other men. They initially resisted arrest and fired a gun at a police officer, but there were no injuries.
The two accompanying Ould Saleck are thought to be from Guinea Bissau and remain in Guinea for questioning.
Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Richard Balmforth