With four jihadists escaping from a prison in Nouakchott on Sunday evening and killing two police officers, the United States is the only country in the Sahel that has not experienced an attack since 2011.
According to a statement from the Interior Ministry, “at 9 p.m. on March 5, 2023, four terrorists managed to escape from the central prison in Nouakchott after attacking the guards, leading to an exchange of fire during which two members of the National Guard” died and two others were slightly injured.
The fugitives’ identities have not been made public.
According to a military official who asked to remain anonymous, two of them had received death sentences, and the other two were in the process of being tried for membership in a terrorist organization.
According to the same source, their car had been discovered northeast of Nouakchott.
Since 1987, Mauritania has not used the death penalty.
The National Guard has tightened its hold on the prison and has started looking for the fugitives to apprehend them as soon as possible, the ministry said, appealing to the public for any information that might help in their capture.
The security system that protects the nation from jihadism, which continues to spread among its Sahelian neighbors, includes the participation of the populace in the fight against the ideology.
Mauritania, which has a population of four million, has not experienced an attack on its soil since 2011. This contrasts with neighboring Mali, which has been counting its dead since a jihadist insurgency started there in 2012.
However, during the 2000s, it was frequently the target of these movements’ attacks and deliberate kidnappings.
The G5 Sahel, which Mali left in 2022, includes Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad as members, and is supported by France, the United States, and the UN. Along with development, Paris claims there is significant defense and security cooperation with Nouakchott.
The Mauritanian government has increased budgets, purchased new equipment, paid salaries to the bank, and provided social support for the military in an effort to train and keep soldiers.
Mauritania encourages communication to prevail in intellectual conflict.
The main ulama and about 70 jihadists who were imprisoned had a dialogue as early as 2010. Roughly fifty of them are persuaded to repent by the religious leaders. Some of them are sent to mosques and broadcast on television to tell young people that jihad is the wrong path to follow.
In addition to offering professional training to young people leaving mahadras (traditional Islamic schools), more than 500 imams are recruited.
In an effort to “fight” extremism through “dialogue,” Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani pardoned eight inmates who had been found guilty of “terrorism” in 2022, according to the official news agency.
Since former president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (2008 to 2019), Mauritania has frequently held dialogue sessions with its jihadist detainees in an effort to win their repentance and reintegrate them into society. From this, about thirty of them had already benefited.