Qaeda offshoot threatens to kill Mauritania president

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An Al-Qaeda offshoot in northwestern Africa threatened Monday to kill Mauritania's president for fighting a "proxy war" on behalf of France to stem its growing influence in the region.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) said it would make a "new attempt" to kill President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz after a foiled attack last week.

It said it would continue to target Abdel Aziz "as long as the proxy war waged against the Mujahideen on behalf of France continues," in a statement carried by the local ANI news agency

It called on the Mauritanian army to overthrow the head of state, claiming he was "imposing a war on you which is not yours".

Mauritania's army blew up a car packed with explosives last week, preventing what AQMI at the time claimed was an assassination attempt on the president. The French embassy and an army barracks was also targeted, according to some sources.

Four suspected AQMI members died during the failed attack, three were killed by the army and one by suicide, and two were arrested. A Mauritanian gendarme was killed and eight injured during the operations.

A Malian security source told AFP on Monday that Mali had accepted an extradition request from Mauritania for one of the two suspects arrested on Sunday which was personally requested by President Aziz.

Meanwhile, France's Cooperation Minister Henri de Raincourt said in Nouakchott that Paris would stand by Mauritania in its fight against AQMI.

"France imposes nothing, France is at the disposal" of Mauritania, "if needs be, if it expresses the desire" de Raincourt said after a meeting with Abdel Aziz.

French forces participated in a joint attack with the Mauritanian army on a militant hideout in neighbouring Mali in a failed attempt to free 78-year-old French hostage Michel Germaneau last year.

AQMI said it later executed the man in reprisal for the raid, which killed several of its members.

Mauritania is one of the countries worst-affected by AQMI activities, including attacks and kidnapping of foreigners across the Sahel.

© 2011 AFP

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