A Mauritanian suspected of plotting a bomb attack against the United States, and who reportedly has links to millionaire Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden, has been arrested in this West African country, security officials said today .
Mohambedou Ould Slahi was being held at the offices of the Bureau of Mauritanian Security, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He was arrested here after leaving neighboring Senegal on Wednesday, they said.
Slahi, who had been living in Canada, left there in part because of an investigation into an alleged bomb plot U.S. authorities say was tied to bin Laden, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said Thursday.
U.S. officials accuse bin Laden, who they believe is living in Afghanistan, of masterminding the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
In Washington, a federal law enforcement official said today that U.S. officials want to question Slahi. But the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, would not say whether the U.S. government would try to bring Slahi to the United States or question him in Mauritania.
The Senegalese newspaper Walfadjri reported today that Slahi had been detained for a few hours at the Dakar airport after arriving from Paris. He was questioned and then allowed to travel to the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, the paper reported.
Quoting unidentified police sources, the paper also reported that Slahi was questioned because his name was on an Interpol list of people to watch.
Slahi's mother, who identified herself only as Fatima, said today her son would never become involved in a bomb plot.
"My son is not the kind of person who can kill," she said. "At the end, you will see that it all was a big lie."
She described him as a deeply religious man who "cries when a member of the family has a simple injury."