February 3, 2023

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Man accused of 2015 terror attacks in Mali extradited to US

A man accused of taking part in attacks in Mali in 2015 that killed dozens, including an American aid worker, has been extradited to the United States to face multiple terrorism charges in federal court in Brooklyn , the authorities announced on Saturday.

The man, Fawaz Ould Ahmed Ould Ahemeid, 44, has previously pleaded guilty to similar offenses in Mali, where he was sentenced to death. He arrived in the United States on Friday and appeared before a federal judge in Brooklyn on Saturday, where he pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Ahemeid was remanded in custody. The terms of the extradition and what they mean for his prison sentence in Mali were not immediately clear.

In an indictment released Saturday, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York charged Mr. Ahemeid with the murder of American aid worker Anita Ashok Datar and providing material support to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – Al Qaeda’s regional affiliate in North Africa – and related matters Crime.

Ms. Datar, a 41-year-old public health professional from Takoma Park, Md., was a guest at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali on November 20, 2015 when two gunmen attacked the hotel, killing 20 people. Prosecutors said Mr Ahemeid directed the attack on behalf of Al Qaeda affiliate and a local militant group, al-Murabitoun.

According to the indictment, Mr. Ahemeid, a Mauritanian national, joined al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb around 2007.

Federal prosecutors said he planned and carried out at least three major terrorist attacks against Western targets in Mali. On March 7, 2015, Mr. Ahemeid – armed with two assault rifles, a pistol and grenades – attacked a restaurant in Bamako. Five people were killed.

On August 7, 2015, Mr Ahemeid helped plan and carry out an attack on the Byblos Hotel in Sevare, Mali that killed 13 people, including five United Nations staff, prosecutors said.

Mr Ahemeid was arrested in Mali in 2016 and pleaded guilty in 2020 in connection with the hotel and restaurant attacks.

According to a report on his sentencing in Mali, reported by Reuters, Mr Ahemeid described the attacks in detail and said he had no regrets. He said he carried them out in revenge for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed printed by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.