The U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., unsealed a criminal indictment on Wednesday charging a citizen of Mali with the murder of a U.S. diplomat and the attempted murder of a U.S. Marine staff sergeant in 2000.
Alhassane Ould Mohamed, also known as “Cheibani,” faces charged stemming from the murder and attempted murder of United States Embassy personnel stationed in Niamey, Niger, in December 2000. In addition to the announcement of this indictment, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch announced a reward of $20,000 for information that leads to Mohamed's capture.
In the early 1990s the nomadic Tuareg of the north began an insurgency in Mali over land and cultural rights that persists to this day, despite central government attempts at military and negotiated solutions, according to the BBC.
"The insurgency was exacerbated by an influx of arms from Libya. The Saharan branch of al-Qaeda was quick to move into this increasingly lawless area, and seized control of the Tuareg north seceding from the rest of Mali and establishing a harsh form of Islamic law," claims the BBC research department.
According to the indictment, in the early morning hours of December 23, 2000, Mohamed, an alleged radical Muslim, and another gunman attacked employees posted at the United States Embassy in Niger as they left a restaurant.
Armed with a handgun and an AK-47 rifle, the two Islamists approached Department of Defense official William Bultemeier as he was about to enter his car, a white sport-utility vehicle bearing diplomatic license plates clearly indicating that it belonged to the United States Embassy.
According to Ms. Lynch, the 42-year-old Mohamed demanded that Bultemeier turn over the SUV's keys to the and then used the pistol to shoot Mr. Bultemeier point-blank.
Staff Sgt. Christopher McNeely, the commander of the Marine detail providing security at the United States Embassy in Niger at the time, ran to Mr. Bultemeier’s aid. Mohamed's unidentified co-conspirator fired his AK-47 at Mr. Bultemeier and Sgt. McNeely, striking them both.
After rummaging through Mr. Bultemeier’s clothing to get the SUV's keys, Mohamed and his fellow partner drove away in the U.S. Embassy vehicle.
Mr. Bultemeier died from the gunshot wounds, while Sgt. McNeely survived the shooting and later retired from the Marine Corps with the rank of Master Sergeant.
In June 2013, Islamist linked to al-Qaeda escaped from a prison in Niger's capital after several gunmen attacked the jail and killed two guards, according to Voice of America.
Among the 22 prisoners convicted on terrorism charges was Alassane Ould Mohamed, who was serving a 20-year sentence for the murder of four Saudi Arabians and an American, according to VOA.
Better late than never
On Sept. 13, 2013, a grand jury in the Eastern District of New York returned a sealed indictment charging the Mohamed with one count of murdering an internationally protected person and one count of attempting to murder an internationally protected person. But the indictment wasn't unsealed until early Wednesday.
“U.S. diplomat William Bultemeier lost his life while representing his country overseas, and U.S. Marine Christopher McNeely was gravely wounded trying to protect him, all during the brazen armed carjacking allegedly perpetrated by [Mohamed] and his confederate. The sacrifice of Mr. Bultemeier and the courage of Staff Sergeant McNeely in service to their country will not be forgotten," said Ms. Lynch.
"An attack on U.S. Government personnel, whether domestically or abroad, is an attack on the United States. The perpetrator of these crimes should always be looking over his shoulders; it is only a matter of time before he is apprehended. The FBI will continue working with its partners overseas to ensure that the defendant is captured and brought to justice,” stated FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos.