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Africa Terrorism

First suicide bomb attack hits Mauritania, highlighting challenge in fighting terrorism

Xie Meihua, Xinhua  Aug 10, 2009

Mauritanian capital Nouakchott witnessed a suicide bomb explosion on Saturday evening, the first of its kind in the country, highlighting that the northwestern African country is facing serious challenges in fighting terrorism.

A suicide attacker, identified as a Mauritanian man, detonated a bomb near the French embassy in Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, killing himself and wounding three other people.

The bomb, apparently targeting the French embassy again, exploded at a location just about 100 meters from the embassy, injuring two guards from the French embassy and a local woman.

Mauritania has been hit for several times by terrorist attacks in the past years but the suicide bomb attack was the first of its kind in the country.

On June 2, 2005, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat(GSPC), considered to be a branch of al-Qaeda in north Africa, killed 15 soldiers and injured 17 others on the border area of Mauritania with Algeria and Mali.

On Dec. 24, 2007, a group of five French tourists were sprayed by unknown gunmen with automatic weapons while picnicking by the road in Aleg in southwestern Mauritania, leaving four of them dead.

In February 2008, an al Qaeda-linked group launched an attack on a restaurant near the Israeli embassy in Nouakchott, leaving three people, all French citizens, wounded.  

On April 17, 2008, a vehicle traveling at high speed forced its way through barriers protecting the French embassy in Nouakchott. Nobody was killed or injured in the incident.

On September 14, 2008, GSPC launched a sudden attack on a team of government soldiers in the area of Tourine, some 800 kilometers north of the capital city of Nouakchott, while they were patrolling the desert area, killing 12 soldiers.

In June 23, 2009, gunmen from GSPC shot dead a U.S. citizen in the street in the capital city. The man was shot several times in the head.

The frequent terrorist attacks have significantly raised security concern in the country.

The Paris-Dakar rally organizers in 2008 decided to cancel the event due to fears of terrorist attacks in Mauritania. This is the first time for the rally to be cancelled since its inception in 1978.

Amid the increasing terrorist attack, Mauritania has already stepped up its efforts in fighting the evil and has already yielded fruits.

During a two-day meeting of the Western Mediterranean Interior Ministers held in Nouakchott in May 2008, Mauritania called for joint efforts to check the " alarming situation."  

It said the increasing cases of terrorism were threatening to transform the entire Arabic Maghreb (North Africa) into a zone of terror.

In May 2008, the Mauritanian security forces arrested a jihadist, who was reputed as an expert in making explosive-laden belts, in what marked a further intensification of the country's fight against terrorism.

The suspect, known as "Sidi Mohamed, was found in a hideout in a building in the capital's northern district of Teyarett, during an operation by the Mauritanian police forces.

The arrest brought the total number of people who had been arrested since the country's security forces launched an intensified crackdown on suspected terrorists in early April 2008 to at least 20.

Mauritania is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, bySenegal on the southwest, by Mali on the east and southeast, by Algeria on the northeast. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott, located on the Atlantic coast. In the country, about 20 percent of the population live on less than 1.25 U.S. dollars per day.

The democratically-elected government in the country was overthrown in August last year by a military coup led by then General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who was elected as president of the country in the election held in July this year.

Aziz has promised in many occasions that his government would do its best to fight the terrorist activities at home so as to safeguard peace and security in the country.

First suicide bomb attack hits Mauritania, highlighting challenge in fighting terrorism
Photo by N icholas Kendall

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