Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mauritanian Troops Foil Suicide Attack on Barracks

Mauritanian troops foil suicide attack on barracks

NOUAKCHOTT (AFP) - A suicide bomber attacked a military barracks in eastern Mauritania early Wednesday but was foiled by troops who fired on his vehicle, which then exploded, a senior military official told AFP.

The would-be bomber tried to ram his four-wheel drive vehicle into the barracks before soldiers fired on the vehicle, sparking a "big explosion" which caused heavy damage, the official said.

"He headed towards the barracks, ignoring warning shots by the military, but fortunately the fire prevented him from moving forward and he had to detonate his bomb at the entrance to the barracks at a time when there were only three men on duty," the source said.

The bomber was killed and three soldiers "slightly injured" by the blast that damaged the gate of the barracks and the houses and shops nearby.

The driver of the vehicle, which bore Malian licence plates was "torn to shreds, almost unidentifiable, but he had a clear complexion."

The incident in Nema, some 1,200 kilometres east of the capital Nouakchott and close to the border with Mali, happened shortly after midnight.

The senior military official, speaking on condition on anonymity, attributed the foiled attack to Osama Bin Laden's terror network's North African offshoot, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

A second vehicle that was reportedly seen in Nema earlier along with the car that exploded, was being sought by police who have cordoned off the area around the barracks, according to local sources interviewed by AFP.

The army has been placed on alert throughout the country, particularly in "contact zones" with AQIM, bordering Mali, where the oganisation has several bases.

The failed attack comes a month after the Mauritanian army launched an offensive on AQIM bases over the border in Mali to pre-empt a strike on military bases at home.

French forces joined in one attack on July 22 in a bid to free 78-year-old French hostage Michel Germaneau, who was later executed by AQIM.

Seven AQIM militia were killed in that raid, and the Al-Qaeda group has threatened Mauritania and France with reprisals.

Earlier this week, the group released two Spanish hostages held captive in the Sahara for nine months after securing the release of the kidnap mastermind and a reported ransom.

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