NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Malian national with ties to militant groups pleaded guilty on Thursday to a U.S. charge that he conspired to kill an American diplomat during a 2000 car jacking in Niger.Alhassane Ould Mohamed, 46, admitted in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, to participating in a conspiracy to murder William Bultemeier, a defense attache system operations coordinator working at Niger’s U.S. Embassy.
Through an interpreter, Mohamed said “it was not my intent to kill somebody” and had no specific target when he shot his rifle during the car jacking. But he said he knew someone could get shot and saw “someone on the ground” afterward.
“I’m sorry I did that, and I did that,” he said in court.
Under the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to at his sentencing on April 26 to seek a prison term of 25 years for Mohamed, who was otherwise eligible for a sentence of up to life.
At a hearing last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zainab Ahmad said some reasons that prosecutors agreed to the deal were confidential and involved “ongoing government investigatory efforts.”
The plea followed Mohamed’s indictment in 2013 for murdering Bultemeier and trying to kill Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Christopher McNeely after the two left a restaurant in Niamey, Niger, on Dec. 23, 2000.
Prosecutors said Mohamed, also known as Cheibani, and another assailant, armed with a pistol and AK-47 assault rifle, demanded Bultemeier hand over the keys to his sport utility vehicle, which bore U.S. diplomatic plates.
Mohamed then shot Bultemeier, prosecutors said. McNeely tried to help Bultemeier when Mohamed’s accomplice shot both men, prosecutors said. McNeely survived the attack.
Malian police arrested Mohamed, but he escaped from custody in May 2002, according to prosecutors.
He was arrested in Mali in 2010 in connection with an attack on a convoy of Saudi Arabian officials in Niger that left four dead.
Sentenced in Niger to 20 years in prison, Mohamed escaped again in June 2013 with other inmates who launched an assault coordinated by Boko Haram, prosecutors said.
Mohamed also had connections to militant groups, including the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, prosecutors said.
He remained at large until French forces in Northern Mali apprehended him in November 2013. He was extradited to the United States in March 2014.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Dan Grebler