Khouna denounced Islamists on Sunday, saying they constituted “rampant danger” to his country.
|Mauritania under threat, says PM|
“They have profited from the spirit of openness and tolerance which our people display", he said.
The prime minister said some Islamists in Mauritania were receiving instructions from abroad and were persuading youngsters to join them so that they would take part in undermining the power of the established system.
Khouna warned of a campaign organised by these Islamists to disparage local traditions based on the Sunni Muslim faith.
He urged his people to help authorities curb what he called “destructive forces”, saying citizens should take individual and collective responsibility to combat Islamists.
Mauritanian authorities arrested a number of Islamist activists, including some religious leaders earlier this month as part of its campaign to crack down on Islamists.
Those arrested were accused of recruiting members to their groups and planning dissident activities.
Khouna said that the Islamist activists currently in detention would be tried if there was evidence against them ; otherwise, they would be freed.
Opposition sources say those arrested were between 15 and 20. Last week, human rights activists denounced the arrests, saying they were arbitrary.
The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said in a statement that it was "deeply concerned" and considered the arrests "an attack on freedoms of expression and association" and on the right to participate in political life.
FIDH said the arrests came after some religious leaders criticised in the minister of religious orientation.
Ten politicians from the Mauritanian Baath movement, which sympathises with the toppled Iraqi government, have been charged with the "creation of an unauthorized association and re-organization of a dissolved political party".