Authorities in Mauritania say suspects in the recent killing of four French tourists are members of an extremist group linked to al-Qaida.
Justice officials say the three primary suspects were previously arrested on terror-related charges, but all were released. Prosecutors said they were members of a north African branch of the al-Qaida terror network.
Security officials say the French tourists were picnicking on the side of the highway outside of Aleg when a group of gunmen pulled up and demanded money. The family refused and the gunmen opened fire.
One man survived the attack, but lost his two children, his brother and a family friend.
Authorities say the suspects may have fled to neighboring Senegal.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy offered his condolences and said he is in touch with his Mauritanian counterpart, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.