Al Qaeda suspect blows self up in Mauritania clash
A suspected member of al Qaeda’s north African wing blew himself up in southern Mauritania on Saturday after security forces cornered him, according to army and national guard sources.
A second suspect was captured alive in the incident in the remote Brakna region, near the border with Senegal, they said.
“Once they were completely encircled, one of them blew himself up while the other was captured alive and transferred to the capital,” a national guard source said, asking not to be named because he was not authorised to speak publicly.
The two were believed to have been among several members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who entered Mauritania from Mali in three vehicles a week ago with plans to launch attacks in the capital Nouakchott.
Mauritania is among several countries in the Sahara region where al Qaeda-linked fighters have raised their profiles with a series of attacks and kidnappings, and are believed to be bankrolling their operations with ransoms.
One of the vehicles exploded on the outskirts of Nouakchott on Wednesday during a clash with Mauritanian soldiers, killing three suspected militants and injuring several soldiers.
The other two vehicles were earlier seized by authorities, one containing weapons, explosives and suspected militants that were detained for questioning.
The national guard source said the two militants on Saturday were discovered after local people alerted authorities. He said Senegalese forces had raised security along the border to prevent them from escaping.
AQIM grew out of the militant Salafist movement in Algeria and has moved south where it is taking advantage of the vast and lawless desert regions of Mauritania, Mali and Niger.
Suspected AQIM fighters killed four French tourists in Mauritania in 2007 and Mauritania’s army said last year it foiled a car bomb attack on a military base in Nema.
AQIM has also claimed responsibility for the abduction of two Frenchmen found dead after an unsuccessful rescue attempt in Niger last month and is believed to be holding five other French nationals kidnapped in Niger last year. Reuters