A Mauritanian court indicted six men on terror charges on Wednesday -- the same day al-Qaeda's North African wing claimed responsibility for a blast in Algiers.
The six are thought to belong to a local terror cell linked to al-Qaeda in Islamic North Africa, the group that earlier claimed responsibility for the bombings that ripped through the prime minister's office and a police station in Algiers, killing at least 24 and wounding hundreds.
Five of the six were charged with "belonging to a terrorist organization whose aim is undermining national security," said Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Talhata, the country's chief prosecutor.
A judge ordered the men held pending trial.
Their group, the Mauritanian Group for the Teaching of Jihad, is allegedly allied with the masterminds of the Algerian attack, Talhata said.
Talhata said authorities had been pursuing the men for three months when they arrested them two weeks ago in Nouakchott. They were caught with a cache of weapons, including Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
The government of Mauritania, a country of 3.2 million surrounded by a sea of sand, has been battling the Salafist guerrillas since a 2005 attack on an army barracks killed 17 people.
Since then, nearly 30 suspected Salafists have been imprisoned on charges of "partaking in terrorist activities."
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