Senegal arrests two suspected foreign jihadists

DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegalese authorities have arrested two suspected foreign jihadists in Dakar, including one who had been in contact with the mastermind of an attack on an Ivory Coast hotel a year ago.

Police spokesman Henry Cisse said an operation in Dakar on Thursday had led to the arrest of Ould Sidy Mohamed Dina, a Malian, as he was trying to leave his home. He had been in Senegal for a month, he said.

Another suspected jihadist, whom he did not name, from Mauritania, had been arrested trying to board a bus to Gambia. The suspects have not yet been charged.

“(Dina) was in contact with Ould Nouwayely, the very same who planned the attack on Grand Bassam (in Ivory Coast),” Cisse said by telephone.

Fifteen civilians and three members of the special forces were killed and 33 people were wounded in the attack in Grand Bassam, a weekend retreat popular with Ivorians and westerners, in March last year.

The attack was one of several in the region viewed as targeting France and its allies, including Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, after Paris intervened militarily in Mali in 2013 to drive out al Qaeda-linked militants who had seized the desert north a year earlier.

Senegal has thus far been spared jihadi attacks like those that frequently plague its eastern neighbor Mali, but authorities are on high alert.

Reporting by Diadie Ba; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Lisa Shumaker