Mauritanian army raids Al-Qaeda-linked group: sources

23rd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Mauritanian army soldiers took part in an operation Thursday targeting members of an Al-Qaeda-linked group in the border region of northern Mali and Mauritania, security officials said.

"The Mauritanian army attacked elements of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on Thursday," a Mauritanian military source, contacted by telephone from Mali, told AFP.

Malian security sources confirmed the operation to AFP, adding that Mali had authorised the operation, and a security source in Burkina Faso, also contacted from Mali, said they had been "informed of the attack by Mauritanian forces against AQIM."

But neither Mauritanian nor Malian government officials were able to confirm the report of the swoop on AQIM.

Members of AQIM are holding 78-year-old French aid worker Michel Germaneau hostage and have threatened to kill him.

Germaneau was kidnapped in northern Niger in April, when he was working with the Enmilal aid group to improve health services and schools in the impoverished Sahel country.

Officials in France and Niger believe he is being held in Mali.

The French foreign ministry said Thursday it had received no demands from Germaneau's kidnappers but took their threat to kill Germaneau seriously.

Spanish newspapers El Pais and ABC meanwhile said on their websites a French military operation to free Germaneau failed early Thursday.

Six suspected extremists were killed and others fled the undisclosed scene, possibly in Mali, during the operation, the papers reported quoting diplomatic sources.

AQIM killed British tourist Edwin Dyer last year after holding him captive for six months, when London refused to yield to the Islamists' demands to free jailed Muslim cleric Abu Qatada, once regarded as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe.

© 2010 AFP

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