- Mauritanian military is hunting suspected al Qaeda raiders accused of ambushing military patrol before skipping the country, lawmaker said.
Security sources said 12 Mauritanian soldiers who were reported dead after the ambush on Monday's attack when gunmen ambushed an army unit patrolling the desert near Tourine are still missing.
"The army is strongly mobilised to keep them from leaving the country by positioning themselves on different possible transit points and by using air reconnaissance," the lawmaker said.
The lawmaker who claimed to have been informed of deployment of troops by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, head of a military junta that took charge of country in a coup last month, said suspects have minimal chances of escaping their arrests.
Mauritania's military, which rattled investors by deposing the elected civilian president on 6 August coup, had said it believed the soldiers were being held by al Qaeda militants who have carried out past attacks in the north.
"The area has been sealed off. We're actively engaged in hunting these men who attacked, we're looking for a column of seven to eight vehicles," a Mauritanian government security source stated.
Monday's attack poses first major security challenge to military coup leaders who toppled President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, Mauritania's first freely-elected leader who won a 2007 presidential election.
Coup led to the suspension of some non-humanitarian aid by United States and Europe, which had backed President Abdallahi's efforts to confront the al Qaeda threat.
Following the coup, the local al Qaeda wing called for a "holy war" in Mauritania, saying generals were probably acting with a green light from "America, France and Israel".
In the only official public comment on ambush so far, the state news agency AMI said terrorist group was counting on carrying out a large-scale attack in whole north of the country", but it offered no more details.
Mauritania became Africa's newest oil producer in 2006, and although output is small, international companies are looking for new sources of crude, as well as gas, gold and copper.
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