Mauritanian Al-Qaeda leader threatens retaliation after raid

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A leader of Al-Qaeda's north Africa branch on Monday threatened France and Mauritania with retaliation after both countries carried out a joint military raid which killed seven militants.

"I say to the infidels and French crusaders ... will not rest until French blood has been spilled," said El Khadim Ould Semane, the jailed leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mauritania.

Semane also singled out Mauritania for revenge in a telephone interview with the private daily Nouakchott Info.

He said that "fighting hand in hand with French miscreants is sufficient proof that the Mauritanian army is fighting Islam."

"There are men who are prepared to retaliate," after the July 22 raid, mounted as an attempt to rescue French hostage Michel Germaneau, Semane said.

AQIM claimed the 78-year-old was later executed in revenge for the attack, which took place in neighbouring Mali.

Semane has been imprisoned in Nouakchott since his arrest during an April 2008 police operation in the capital, in which a policeman was killed and several police and AQMI members wounded.

AQIM, whose Mauritanian branch was officially disbanded after Semane's arrest, has also demanded the remains of those slain in the raid be handed over to their families by the Mauritanian army.

The daily said the interview with Semane was conducted by telephone, though telephone contact with inmates of Nouakchott prison, where 73 suspected jihadists are jailed, is theoretically banned.

© 2010 AFP

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