Mauritanian indicted in 3 deadly 2015 terror attacks in Mali

FILE - Soldiers stand guard in front of the Radisson Blu hotel prior to the visit of Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in Bamako, Mali, Nov. 21, 2015. Fawaz Ould Ahmed Ould Ahemeid, a Mauritanian national, suspected of planning and coordinating three lethal attacks in 2015 on westerners in Mali, was arraigned in a New York federal court on Saturday Dec. 10, 2022, a day after being transferred to U.S. custody in Mali. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, file) (Jerome Delay, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NEW YORK – A Mauritanian national suspected of planning and coordinating three lethal attacks in 2015 on Westerners in Mali was arraigned in a New York federal court on Saturday, a day after being transferred to U.S. custody in Mali.

Fawaz Ould Ahmed Ould Ahemeid faces multiple terrorism charges in a six-count indictment, including for his alleged role in the attacks on a restaurant and two hotels that killed a total of 38 people. The victims included five United Nations workers and a U.S. citizen.

“Today, we have made clear that the United States is steadfast in our commitment to bring to justice those who commit barbaric acts of terrorism targeting innocent victims, including, as in this case, an American aid worker who was killed more than 4,000 miles from her home in Maryland,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.

Ahemeid, 44, also known as “Ibrahim Idress” and “Ibrahim Dix,” appeared in a federal court in Brooklyn, where U.S. Magistrate Judge James R. Cho ordered him to be detained, pending trial. Samuel Jacobson, one of Ahemeid's federal public defenders, said they had no comment at this time.

Ahemeid was previously sentenced to death in 2020 by a Malian court for his role in the same attacks. A spokesperson for U.S. Attorney’s Office said the Malian government agreed to turn him over to U.S. authorities.

Alex Thurston, assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, said “accountability for the organizers of terrorist attacks is important." He noted "the case is unlikely to have much of an impact back in Mali, however, where most jihadist violence occurs far from the capital,” referring to more recent attacks in the West African nation.

Ahemeid is charged with the murder of Anita Ashok Datar, the U.S. citizen who was among the 20 victims of a Nov. 20, 2015 attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Datar, a 41-year-old public health expert from Takoma Park, Maryland, was a guest at the hotel and had been working for an international developing firm helping the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Ahemeid also faces charges of unlawful use of firearms and explosives and helping provide support to the terrorist groups al-Mourabitoun and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, a group he allegedly joined in or around 2007.

The charges also relate to the March 7, 2015 attack on the La Terrasse restaurant in Bamako, Mali where a masked gunman sprayed bullets in a restaurant popular with foreigners, killing five people, including French and Belgium nationals. Documents filed by prosecutors accuse Ahemeid of personally committing the attack, armed with two assault rifles, a pistol and grenades. The group al-Mourabitoun publicly claimed responsibility that day for the attack.

The third attack occurred on Aug. 7, 2015 at the Hotel Byblos in Sevare, Mali, where 13 individuals, including the five U.N. workers, were killed after a gunman armed with an assault rifle and wearing a suicide vest opened fire. Al-Mourabitoun claimed responsibility for that attack as well.