Briton held in Africa trying to join terror group

Last Updated: Sat, Dec 29, 2012 15:00 hrs

London, Dec 29 (IANS) A British student has been arrest in North Africa after allegedly trying to join an Islamist terrorist group threatening to take control over the entire Sahara region, a media report said.

Ahmed Shaheen, 26, from London, was detained on the border between Mauritania and Mali as he tried to cross the Sahara on foot to reach the desert stronghold of the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Daily Mail reported.

The British Foreign Office said it was aware of reports of the detention of a British national in Mauritania.

Shaheen, described as of Asian origin and wearing a beard, was staying with a nomad family in the small oasis town of Walata, around 1,100 km from the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott. He was allegedly posing as an expert in traditional communities.

The daily said he had attended prayers at an ancient mosque but was later reported missing. He said he planned to walk across the desert to Timbuktu, in Mali.

He was stopped by nomad tribesmen on Christmas Day and taken to security services operating in the border area who arrested him.

Shaheen reportedly told Mauritanian Police he was trying to reach Timbuktu to join the AQIM.

Citing Mauritanian news agency Sahara Media, the daily said jihadists from various countries, including instructors from Pakistan, have been flocking to Mali to fill the ranks of AQIM ahead of an armed assault by a UN-backed multi-national force to oust the militants.

The Islamists took control of Timbuktu in April after a military coup left Mali's army in disarray.

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