Reuters International

Alhassane Ould Mohamed is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters January 25, 2016. REUTERS/U.S. Attorney's Office/Handout via Reuters

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By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Malian national with ties to militant groups was sentenced to 25 years in a U.S. prison on Tuesday after admitting to having conspired to kill an American diplomat during a 2000 carjacking in Niger, prosecutors said.

Alhassane Ould Mohamed, 46, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William Kuntz in Brooklyn, New York, for participating in a conspiracy to murder William Bultemeier, a defence attache system operations coordinator working at the U.S. embassy in Niger.

Mohamed pleaded guilty in March as part of an agreement that prosecutors would seek a 25-year prison term at his sentencing. He faced a potential life sentence prior to the plea deal.

He was indicted 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 the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, prosecutors said.

Mohamed also had connections to other 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 Alan Crosby)

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