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Mauritania officer freed by al-Qaida branch

Associated Press

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (AP) – Officials say that al-Qaida’s North Africa branch has released a Mauritanian officer who was kidnapped by the group in December.

An official statement by the general staff of the gendarmerie published Saturday says that the officer has been released.

A security official says the man was freed in exchange for the release of a Malian who was sentenced to five years in prison for aiding al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in the kidnapping of an Italian couple in 2009.

AQIM, once concentrated in Algeria, where it is based, has rendered huge swaths of Mauritania, Mali and Niger off-limits to foreigners. The southern warlords are best known for kidnapping Westerners for ransom. Members have kidnapped and ransomed more than 50 Europeans and Canadians since 2003.

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