Bissau, Mar 14: Investigators in Guinea-Bissau said today four men suspected of collaborating with an Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist who attempted to kill the president of Mauritania were in detention under heavy security.
"Four jihadists are behind bars in a high-security prison," senior police investigator Domingos Correia told AFP. Police sources said two of the men were extradited on March 8 from neighbouring Guinea after their arrest in January, while the others were arrested in the capital, Bissau.
The Guinea-Bissau nationals are suspected of helping Cheikh Ould Saleck, a high-profile jihadist on death row in his native Mauritania, to flee across the border and hide out in Guinea after he broke out of jail.
All four have appeared before judges in Guinea-Bissau but have not been formally charged. Ould Saleck was arrested on the outskirts of the Mauritanian capital in 2011 when the army intercepted two car bombs aimed at President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz as part of an Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) plot.
He escaped on New Year's Eve over the border into Senegal and on to tiny Guinea-Bissau, before ending up in Guinea.
He was also captured and is now back in Mauritania. Guinea-Bissau has been hit by a series of coups since independence from Portugal in 1974, but has avoided the type of Islamist attacks that have hit Mali, Burkina Faso and most recently Ivory Coast in the same region.
Gunmen armed with grenades and assault rifles yesterday stormed three hotels and sprayed the beach with bullets in the Ivorian resort of Grand-Bassam, killing 18 and raising fears of a widening Islamist threat in the region.