|Mauritania is one of several West African nations where al-Qaeda gunmen have attacked foreigners and local
security forces [EPA]
A court in Mauritania has sentenced three members of an al-Qaeda-linked group to death for their involvement in a 2008 attack in which a policeman was killed.
Khayi Ould Mohamed, the chief judge, issued the sentences late on Wednesday in the capital, Nouakchott.
The three men were from the group Ansar Allah, which is linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the north African wing of the network.
Khadim Ould Semane, the self-proclaimed leader of Ansar Allah, was accused of playing a role in the death of a policeman during a shootout in the capital Nouakchott in 2008.
Two other members of the group, Sidi Ould Sidna and Marouf Ould Haiba, also were sentenced to death, though both previously had been sentenced to death in May for their roles in the killing of four French tourists in 2007.
Eight others were jailed for between two and 15 years for involvement in the policeman’s murder. One of the defendants, a Tunisian and the only foreign national, was acquitted.
A total of 19 members of the group are standing trial.
While capital punishment is legal in Mauritania, the last time the country executed a convict was in 1984.
Mauritania is one of several West African nations where al Qaeda gunmen have attacked foreigners and local security forces and has joined in recent joint military operations in the region targeting the group fighters.
Al Qaeda’s North African wing, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, claimed responsibility last month for the kidnapping of five French nationals in Niger.
The group is believed to have grown out of the Salafist movement in Algeria, and experts say it is now bringing in millions of dollars in ransoms in the vast and lawless Sahel region.