Mauritanian Salafists plead for release
By Jemal Oumar for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 12/12/11
A group of Salafist inmates last week appealed to Mauritanian authorities for amnesty, claiming they had renounced violent ideology.
"We declare our adherence to security and stability in Mauritania, and we declare that we will follow the path of well-established scholars who are working in this country," they said in a statement published December 4th in local press.
The thirteen prisoners incarcerated on terrorism-related charges professed their "innocence from all charges against them about carrying out terrorist acts or belonging to armed groups".
Referring to last year's presidential pardon, they urged the authorities "to release them like they did with their colleagues, to whom the state provided financial assistance to help them integrate in society and return to their normal activities".
About 47 former Salafists last year renounced their affiliations with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) following a dialogue with moderate religious scholars. The repentant terrorists agreed not to carry arms against the state or threaten Western nationals on its soil. They benefited from a presidential pardon as well as gifts and loans from the state to help them re-integrate into society.
"The scholars who took part in the previous dialogue must shoulder their responsibility in full towards the results of that dialogue," the thirteen detainees said.
According to analyst Mohamed Ould Ahmed Salem, the demands come at a time "when this group started to feel strangling isolation following the transfer of more dangerous Salafist prisoners led by Khadim Ould Samane to an unknown place".
"Those more dangerous prisoners were like a spiritual supply and a strong ideological support on whom they depended over the past periods," he added. "The transfer of the Ould Samane-led group means the separation of heads from students after they were inciting and directing them. Such a situation made them seek dialogue in any way."
Sid Ahmed Ould Tfeil, an expert of Salafist ideology, had a different explanation. "They started to feel extremely disappointed when they realised that AQIM was not prepared to take up their case and didn't show a desire to exchange them for the kidnapped foreign nationals," he argued.
"AQIM also didn't show any desire about the release of the more dangerous Salafist group, including Ould Samane, Marouf Ould Haiba and others. This shows that AQIM has abandoned them, and therefore, they started to hold to anything," he said.
Analyst Yacoub Moustafa doubted that the government would heed these demands.
The Salafists "are not to be trusted," he said. "Some of them had the chance but didn't take advantage of it. Some of them have previously benefited from the pardon but then returned again to AQIM camps, including some who took part in killing US national Christopher, such as Abedi Ould Ahmednah, and some who took part in the attack on soldiers in Lemgheity, such as Tahir Ould Bi, who was the first one to join AQIM."
"In addition, they have discredited themselves with the Mauritanian public opinion and lost its sympathy because of a series of events carried out by them, such as Nema attack and the attempted bombing in Nouakchott which was thwarted, as well as other terrorist attacks," Moustafa said.
Subscribe to our newsletter and get Magharebia's latest articles delivered to your inbox.