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Mauritania soldiers shoot French security man Print
18 Apr 2008, Reuters

NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) - Mauritanian troops guarding a base in the capital Nouakchott shot and wounded a French private security contractor late on Thursday after mistaking him for an attacker, a senior police officer said.

The incident is the latest sign of increasing tension in Mauritania since suspected al Qaeda members shot dead four French tourists in December, raising fears that militant cells were moving their operations south from Algeria and Morocco.

The security forces have been on alert since one of the men suspected of shooting the tourists escaped from police custody two weeks ago, sparking a manhunt that has led to two fatal shootouts.

"At around 2100 (GMT) someone in a vehicle with tinted windows passed in front of the military base in Nouakchott and the soldiers guarding it panicked and opened fire into the vehicle," a senior police official said.

"The person inside was a French national working for a private security firm which was helping the army secure the base," the official said, asking not to be named.

He said the Frenchman had been injured in the leg and was due to be evacuated to France for medical treatment following the shooting, which took place in front of a military base close to the presidential palace and to ministry buildings.

Police have set up a special communications and intelligence unit to gather information on suspects in the December 24 tourist killings and other attacks that have raised fears al Qaeda cells are gaining a foothold in the West African Islamic Republic.

Prosecutors have said they believe Islamist militants in the country, which straddles black and Arab West Africa, were planning an attack on foreign interests. Foreign companies operating in the former French colony have tightened security.

A policeman and a suspected Islamist militant were killed in a shootout between Mauritanian police and suspected al Qaeda gunmen 10 days ago. One civilian was killed in a botched police arrest two days later.
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