Africa

Mauritania: 'Al-Qaeda men die' as troops fire on car

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Mauritanian soldiers have fired on a car packed with explosives outside the capital killing three suspected members of al-Qaeda's North African branch.

The army said several soldiers were also injured in the operation in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

It believes the three men were about to mount an attack in Nouakchott.

An army spokesman said the car was one of three all-terrain vehicles tracked by the security forces since crossing from Mali.

"The car was transporting three terrorists trying to infiltrate the capital by launching a kamikaze attack," Col Mohamed Ould Ahmed told the Associated Press news agency.

The occupant of a second vehicle was detained, but those travelling in the third vehicle are still being sought.

Correspondents say the explosion - which took place some 12km (eight miles) south of Nouakchott - woke up city residents in some southern suburbs in the early hours of the morning.

Earlier last year, four Sahara states - Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Algeria - set up a joint military headquarters in the south of Algeria to improve co-ordination in combating al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM).

The group emerged in 2007 from an Algerian militant group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), and aligned itself with Osama Bin Laden's international network.

It has carried out suicide attacks and ambushes in Algeria and in recent years has become more active in the Sahara, where governments struggle to impose their authority.

AQIM also carries out kidnappings for ransom or to demand the release of prisoners.

Last month, it claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two Frenchmen in Niger who were later found dead after a failed attempt to rescue them on the Niger-Mali border.

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