NOUAKCHOTT (AFP) — Mauritania has arrested three new suspects in the Christmas Eve murder of four French tourists, a legal source said Saturday, as top French travel operators suspended tours to the desert nation.
Police said a manhunt was underway in the west African states of Mali, Mauritania and Senegal for three Mauritanians, who are suspected of links to Al-Qaeda, over the murders.
Five people have already been arrested over the killings.
The three new suspects were arrested mid-week in the southern region of Boghe near the border with Senegal. They include the owner of a boat on which the three men who killed the tourists are thought to have fled to Senegal.
The sole survivor from the French party, who were on a driving trek ahead of next month's Paris-Dakar rally that crosses Mauritania, was flown home to Lyon in France and taken to hospital, local officials said.
Francois Tollet, in his mid-70s, had successful surgery in Dakar to save a leg, but his unnamed brother and two of his adult children, Jean-Philippe, 47, and Didier, 38, were shot dead on Monday, 250 kilometres (155 miles) east of the capital, Nouakchott, together with a friend of Didier, estate agent Adda Hacene, 33.
On Friday, an Arab man was arrested in Mali, who a police source in Bamako said: "can shed light on the murders."
On Saturday, leading French tour operators Voyageurs du Monde, Allibert and Club Adventure suspended holiday packages to Mauritania.
The move followed a warning Friday by the French foreign ministry against travel to the desolate northwest African country -- although Dakar Rally organisers are keeping Mauritania on their race itinerary.
On Thursday, three Mauritanian soldiers were killed during an armed ambush in the northeast of the country.
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