- Mauritania's army has declared three days of mourning, following deaths of their 12 colleagues who were killed last week in an ambush purportedly claimed by a branch of al-Qaeda, a government spokesman said.
The men were found with their throats cut in the open desert about 30km north of town of Tourine - site of Monday's ambush - said spokesman Mohamed Ould Mohamed Abderahmane Ould Moine.
Government originally said soldiers were shot dead in the attack, but then reclassified them as missing when it didn't find bodies.
There have been attacks in recent months for which Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility, including murder of three French tourists late last year, which resulted in cancellation of famous Paris Dacca rally.
But some analysts say threat of terrorism is being exaggerated.
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.
Mauritania's military, which rattled investors by deposing the elected civilian president in 6 August coup, had said it believed soldiers were being held by al Qaeda militants who have carried out past attacks in the north.
Following coup, 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".
Military led government has called for international support in the fight against terrorism, describing it as a very grave threat to stability of the region.
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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