NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania- (AP)
Mauritania has arrested four Islamic militants suspected of having links to millionaire fugitive Osama bin Laden, security officials in this West African nation said Tuesday.
The arrests were part of an inquiry into allegations that a Mauritanian, Mohambedou Ould Slahi, plotted bomb attacks against the United States, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. They did not say who was arrested or when.
Slahi was arrested in Mauritania after leaving neighboring Senegal last week. He had been living in Canada but left there in part because of an investigation into an alleged bomb plot U.S. authorities say was linked to bin Laden, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has said.
U.S. officials accuse bin Laden, a Saudi believed to be living in Afghanistan, of masterminding the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Those attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
Early in 1999, Mauritanian authorities arrested more than a dozen Muslims for alleged ties to bin Laden. All were later released without charge.
The New York Times has reported that Slahi’s brother-in-law is one of bin Laden’s top lieutenants. However, a U.S. law enforcement official said on condition of anonymity that U.S. investigators are unsure of this.
Investigators also are not sure if Slahi was a major figure in the alleged bombing plot, or just a minor messenger, the official in Washington said.
No specific evidence has been released linking bin Laden to the newly alleged bombing plot. Authorities have not said what the targets of that plot might have been.
Canadian authorities have said Slahi left Canada sometime after Dec. 14, when authorities uncovered the alleged plot. That’s when they arrested Ahmed Ressam for allegedly trying to smuggle bomb-making components across the Canadian border into the United States.
Ressam, an Algerian, pleaded innocent Thursday in federal court in Seattle to charges