Escaped extremist prisoners killed in Mauritania: Government

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Three escaped extremist prisoners in Mauritania were killed and a fourth detained during an operation to recapture them, the government said in a statement on Saturday.

The operation took place overnight Friday in the heartland desert area of Adrar, a security official said on condition of anonymity.

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The four extremists, including a Mauritanian, had escaped from a Nouakchott prison the previous Sunday.

The breakout, in which two other guards were lightly wounded, was a rare event in a nation spared the insurgency sweeping through the Sahel.

According to a military official, two had been sentenced to death, while the other two were awaiting trial for membership of a terrorist organization.

The same source said one of the prisoners was Saleck Ould Cheikh, who had been on death row since 2011 for his part in a plot to assassinate Mauritanian president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Ould Cheikh had already escaped prison in December 2015 before being arrested in Guinea Bissau and sent back to Mauritania after three weeks on the run.

The second prisoner on death row participated in attacks on the army in the north of the country in 2005, the military official said.

Asking not to be named, he said their vehicle had been found in the northeastern part of Nouakchott.

The death penalty has not been enforced in Mauritania since 1987.

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