Malian National Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison For Conspiracy to Murder US Diplomat in Niger

Posted: 12:07 am ET
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In September 2013, we blogged about Malian national Alhassane Ould Mohamed who was indicted for the 2000 murder/attempted murder of US Embassy Niger staffers.  In March 2016, Alhassane Ould Mohamed pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder a U.S. diplomat stationed at US Embassy Niger. In late April, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiracy to murder William Bultemeier, a DOD civilian employee and retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant.  The victim was  deployed to the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger in July 2000 where he served as the Defense Attache Systems Operations Coordinator. He was murdered the day he was supposed to return home to North Carolina 15 years ago.

 

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Malian National Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Murder U.S. Diplomat Stationed at US Embassy Niger

Posted: 2:20 am ET
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In September 2013, we blogged about Malian national Alhassane Ould Mohamed who was indicted for the 2000 murder/attempted murder of US Embassy Niger staffers. On March 24, 2016, USDOJ announced that Alhassane Ould Mohamed, aka Cheibani, 46, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York to conspiring to murder a U.S. diplomat stationed in Niamey, Niger, on December 22, 2000. William Bultemeier was a DOD civilian employee and retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant. He was deployed to the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger in July 2000 where he served as the Defense Attache Systems Operations Coordinator. He was murdered the day he was supposed to return home to North Carolina 15 years ago.

Photograph of William Bultemeier via

Photograph of William Bultemeier via USDOJ

Via USDOJ:

Alhassane Ould Mohamed, aka Cheibani, 46, a citizen of Mali, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York to conspiring to murder a U.S. diplomat stationed in Niamey, Niger, in December 2000.

The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York and Assistant Director in Charge Diego Rodriguez of the FBI New York Field Office.

According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceeding, in the early morning hours of Dec. 23, 2000, Mohamed and a co-conspirator accosted a group of employees of the U.S. Embassy in Niger as they left a restaurant in Niamey.  Carrying a pistol and an AK-47 assault rifle, the two men approached Department of Defense official William Bultemeier as he was about to enter his car, which displayed diplomatic license plates clearly indicating that it belonged to the U.S. Embassy.  After demanding that Bultemeier turn over the keys to the diplomatic vehicle, the defendant and his co-conspirator shot Bultemeier and Staff Sergeant Christopher McNeely, the Marine Detachment Commander for the U.S. Embassy in Niger at the time, who had run to Bultemeier’s aid.  Mohamed and his fellow assailant then drove away in the U.S. Embassy vehicle.

Bultemeier died of the injuries inflicted by the gunshot wounds.  Staff Sergeant McNeely survived the shooting and later retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Sergeant.

Today’s plea took place before U.S. District Judge William F. Kuntz II of the Eastern District of New York.  At sentencing on April 26, 2016, as part of the agreement, the defendant faces an agreed-upon sentence of 25 years in prison.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zainab Ahmad, Margaret Lee and Melody Wells of the Eastern District of New York with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

The unsealed Grand Jury indictment is available to read below:

 

 

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US Embassy Niger: Schools Attended by Official American Dependents Get Armed Guards

Posted: 12:58  am EDT
Updated: 1:49 pm EDT message updated by US Embassy Niamey
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The U.S. Embassy in Niamey released a Security Message on March 19 informing American citizens in Niger of the change in embassy school policy:

The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that, due to ongoing security concerns, schools attended by officials of U.S. citizens now require the presence of armed guards.

The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that, due to ongoing security concerns, schools attended by children of official U.S. citizens now require the presence of armed guards. (updated)

The U.S. Embassy reminds U.S. citizens in Niger to exercise caution, maintain a high level of vigilance, take appropriate steps to increase security awareness, and pay attention to your surroundings at all times.

The Embassy reminds U.S. citizens of the importance of taking precautions that can help you avoid being a target. Please follow these good personal security practices:

Avoid crowds or large gatherings when traveling in public;

Reduce exposure to places where Westerners frequently congregate, such as hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and grocery stores;

Know where you are going and have an exit plan in the event you encounter demonstrations or violence;

Tell family member, co-workers, or neighbors where you’re going and when you intend to return;

Minimize your profile while in public;

Follow the instructions of local authorities;

Be prepared to postpone or cancel activities for personal safety concerns;

Always carry a cell phone and make sure you have emergency numbers pre-programmed into your phone such as the U.S. Embassy number tel. (227) 20-72-26-61 and the after-hours emergency number, (227) 20-72-31-41.

Niger Map from CIA World Fact Book

Niger Map from CIA World Fact Book

According to the 2014 Crime and Safety report, Niger is rated by the Department of State as High for terrorism and for crime.

  • Its central location and the vast, open Sahara and Sahel Deserts make the transit of terrorists, criminals, weapons, migrants, contraband, and illegal drugs possible.
  • Due to safety and security concerns, the Peace Corps ceased its operations in Niger in January 2011.
  • Embassy Travel Policy (applicable to all U.S. government executive branch travelers under Chief of Mission authority) requires that all travel north of Niamey and east of Zinder be accompanied by an armed security escort, with guards at hotels for overnight stays.

Excerpt from the Crime and Safety Report:

There has been an overall decrease in residential robberies in Niamey. Home invasions and residential robberies occur primarily after dark and can be violent. There have been several incidents in which assailants attacked the residential guard or the occupants of the residence. While thieves typically choose to rob homes that have no residential guard and/or visible residential security measures, there have been several incidents in which assailants attacked the residential guard or the occupants of the residence, including some diplomat and NGO residences. There was an incident at an Embassy residence by a violent individual; the Embassy guard on duty physically protected the residence from intrusion. In addition, there have been numerous cases of commercial and NGO office robberies.

Niger is rated high for terrorism. Niger has experienced terrorism firsthand, mainly in the form of kidnapping-for-ransom (KFR) operations and clashes between the Nigerien military and al-Qai’da in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) or other terrorist groups in the north. The January 2013 French military intervention in Mali against AQIM and its allies caused terrorist elements to threaten reprisals against countries — including Niger – that participated. In May 2013, AQIM-related forces led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar executed simultaneous suicide attacks with Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED) and dismounted gunmen on a Nigerien military camp in Agadez and a French-owned uranium mine in Arlit.

Boko Haram (BH) has an increasing presence; the group is from northern Nigeria, where the population – mostly Hausa and Kanuri – is essentially identical to that on the Nigerien side of the border. In Nigeria, Boko Haram has attacked government forces, slaughtered civilians, and kidnapped foreigners. Niger, whose population is majority Hausa, has experienced an increase in extremist rhetoric in the south (specifically Diffa), and Boko Haram members have been arrested in Niger.

According to the March 8 update at state.gov, Embassy Niamey is a 30% hardship differential post with zero COLA and zero danger pay.

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Headline Triggered-Senate Confirmations: Michael Lawson (Plane Down), Eunice Reddick (Drones)

— Domani Spero
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On July 21, the Senate confirmed the following nominations by voice votes:

 

Maybe there’s a bored Hollywood film producer willing to construct multiple fake events and get this Senate moving?

It seems like this is the trend in the Senate these days.  The chance for confirmation in the “world’s greatest deliberative body” seems to jump by quite a bit, and speeds up in a hurry  when a particular country hits breaking news.   The nominations for Iraq, Egypt, Honduras, Kuwait, Qatar … were all walked relatively quickly.  Those going to the islands may have a longer wait.

Last week, a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane was shot down over Ukraine.  This week, we finally have our ambassador to Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), freshly confirmed after a 10-month wait.

Ambassador Reddick was confirmed for the US Embassy in Niger after almost a year of wait. Excuse me, Niger, what the heck is going on there?  What —  drones in Niger?

Don’t worry if we’re now going on five months with no ambassador to Moscow.  That Russian bear has been growling rather badly, so by next week, it looks like we’ll finally get a newly confirmed ambassador for Moscow.  That is, if the Senate has been reading the news with eyes wide open.  

We expect all these officials will have chips implanted in their brains and will have no need for time to transition to their new responsibilities. They’ll just know it and do it. They may not even need to do pack out or make travel arrangements for family and pets either.   A heck of a time to move house when things are falling apart almost everywhere.  No matter.  We’ll just beam them all up to their next posts. And just like that, with a push of a button, we’ll erase all those wasted months of waiting.

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Malian National Alhassane Ould Mohamed Indicted for 2000 Murder/Attempted Murder of US Embassy Niger Staffers

–By Domani Spero

On September 18, the USDOJ announced the indictment of Malian national, Alhassane Ould Mohamed for the alleged murder/attempted murder of U.S. Embassy Niamey’s personnel in Niger back in 2000. The individual allegedly killed DOD’s William Bultemeier, the Defense Attache System Operations Coordinator and wounded Staff Sergeant Christopher McNeely, the Marine Detachment Commander for U.S. Embassy Niger at the time.  Mr. Bultemeier was killed on the day he was scheduled to return to the United States.

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(click on image for larger view)

Via USDOJ:

Malian National Indicted In Brooklyn Federal Court For Murder Of U.S. Diplomat | September 18, 2013

An indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging Alhassane Ould Mohamed, also known as “Cheibani,” a Malian citizen, with the murder and attempted murder of United States Embassy personnel stationed in Niamey, Niger in December 2000.   In addition, a reward of $20,000 was announced for information that leads to the defendant’s capture.

The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; George Venizelos, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), New York Field Office; Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; and Greg Starr, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State.

According to the indictment, in the early morning hours of December 23, 2000, the defendant and a co-conspirator accosted a group of employees of the United States Embassy in Niger as they left a restaurant in Niamey, Niger.  Carrying a pistol and an AK-47 assault rifle, the two men 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.  The defendant demanded that Mr. Bultemeier turn over the keys to the diplomatic vehicle and used the pistol to shoot Mr. Bultemeier.  Staff Sergeant Christopher McNeely, the Marine Detachment Commander for the United States Embassy in Niger at the time, ran to Mr. Bultemeier’s aid.  The defendant’s co-conspirator then fired his AK-47 at Mr. Bultemeier and Staff Sergeant McNeely, hitting them both.  After rifling through Mr. Bultemeier’s pockets to get the car keys, the defendant and his fellow assailant drove away in the United States Embassy vehicle.

Mr. Bultemeier died of the injuries inflicted by the gunshot wounds.  Staff Sergeant McNeely survived the shooting, and later retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Sergeant.

On September 13, 2013, a grand jury in the Eastern District of New York returned a sealed indictment charging the defendant with one count of murdering an internationally protected person, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1116(a), and one count of attempting to murder an internationally protected person, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1116(a).  The indictment was unsealed earlier today.

“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 the defendant and his confederate.  The sacrifice of Mr. Bultemeier and the courage of Staff Sergeant McNeely in service to their country will not be forgotten.  The United States will work ceaselessly to bring those who harm our diplomats and military personnel to justice,” stated United States Attorney Lynch.  Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the governments of Niger, Mali and Algeria for their substantial assistance and cooperation in connection with this investigation.  The FBI and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security are currently coordinating with foreign partners to apprehend the defendant.

“As alleged in the indictment, Mr. Bultemeier was representing the United States Government in Niger when he was callously murdered by the defendant.  U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant McNeely, who courageously attempted to come to Mr. Bultemeier’s aid, was seriously injured in the ambush.  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 Venizelos.

Lieutenant General Flynn expressed his deep gratitude for the long and dedicated service of the FBI, Department of Justice, and Department of State personnel involved in the effort to bring Mr. Bultemeier’s alleged murderers to justice.

“The Bureau of Diplomatic Security has been working with our domestic and international law enforcement partners to locate, pursue, and apprehend Mohamed since his prison escape.  With agents in more than 270 U.S. diplomatic missions around the world, Diplomatic Security is uniquely positioned for this effort,” stated Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Starr.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Zainab Ahmad, with assistance from Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section and Trial Attorney Dan Stigall of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

The Defendant: ALHASSANE OULD MOHAMED | Age: 42

According to stripes.com Mohamed was arrested in Mali two days after the killing, citing U.S. authorities. He remained in custody there until he escaped in 2002.  In late 2009, Mohamed was arrested again in Mali in the killings of four Saudi Arabian nationals in northern Niger. He was sent back to Niger where he was convicted of the murders and sentenced to 20 years behind bars. He escaped from prison a second time in June.

Related items:

Unseald Indictiment Alhassane Mohamed 
Photograph of Victim-William Bultemeier 
DOJ/FBI Wanted Poster

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US Embassy Niger: Curfew for Official Personnel From Midnight – 6:00 AM

On February 7, the US Embassy in Niamey sent out an updated security message to U.S. citizens in Niger regarding restricted travel in the country, and the embassy-imposed curfew on mission personnel.

As of February 6, anyone, i.e., U.S. citizens, foreigners and host country nationals alike, who wishes to travel beyond the Niamey’s city limits (péage), must carry with them  car registration and personal identification documents, such as a passport or Nigerien identification card.

The Nigerien authorities have stated they will not restrict or permit travel based on nationality, but they do reserve the right to restrict travel based on the intended destination and its current security climate.  If you wish to travel, please remember the security climate can change and the Nigerien authorities may decide to take additional actions for your safety.

Due to the fluid security situation in Niger, the U.S. Embassy has imposed a curfew on official Embassy personnel from midnight until 6:00 a.m. The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens remain vigilant, review their personal security plans, and take appropriate steps to increase their personal security.

Amb Bisa Williams during a trip to the Zinder region in 2011(Photo via US EMbassy Niamey/FB)

Ambassador Bisa Williams during a trip to the Zinder region in 2011
(Photo via US Embassy Niamey/FB)

On January 16, 2013, the Department of State issued a new travel warning for Niger on the risks of travel to Niger, and urges extreme caution due to the military conflict in neighboring Mali and continued kidnapping threats against Westerners in Niger.

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US Embassy Mali Imposes Curfew for Official Mission Personnel

On January 17, 2013, the US Embassy in Bamako, Mali issued the following emergency message to U.S. citizens in country:

The U.S. Embassy in Bamako is issuing this message to inform U.S. citizens of an Embassy imposed curfew for official Embassy personnel.

As of January 17, the U.S. Embassy in Bamako is implementing a curfew on U.S. Embassy official personnel.  The curfew is in place because of increased police checkpoints and heightened tensions in Bamako.  While this Embassy curfew does not extend to private U.S. citizens, the U.S. Embassy encourages U.S. citizens in Bamako to avoid travelling late at night and to be prudent in choosing where to go.

The U.S. Embassy reminds all U.S. citizens of the risk of terrorist activity in Mali, including in Bamako, and advises U.S. citizens to be cautious during this period of increased tension.  Malian security forces have increased their security safeguards, including checkpoints and other controls on movement in Bamako and around the country.  Criminal elements could use the increased security checkpoints to pose as legitimate police officers, so please use caution.  We urge all U.S. citizens in Mali to remain vigilant and prudent when choosing to move about the city.  Also, we suggest you avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gathering, and exercise prudence if choosing to visit locations frequented by Westerners in and around Bamako.

The escalating conflict is reflected on the emergency messages coming out of US Embassy Bamako.  Note that the recently issued Mali Travel Warning dated January 10, 2013 has now been replaced with a new one dated January 16, 2012

In the meantime, the US Embassies in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Banjul (The Gambia) and Niamey (Niger) have all issued emergency messages warning U.S. citizens “to remain vigilant in light of recent events in neighboring Mali and the potential for retaliatory actions towards Westerners in general within the region.”