Mauritanian aircraft attack al Qaeda positions in Mali
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The Mauritanian military said Thursday its aircraft had carried out air strikes just across the border with Mali to prevent a planned attack by militants linked to the al Qaeda terrorist network.
REUTERS - Mauritanian aircraft carried out air strikes on suspected al Qaeda positions in neighbouring Mali on Thursday, according to Mauritania’s state news agency.
The AMI agency, citing the military press office, said Mauritania had struck as “terrorists” were preparing to launch an attack on Mauritania from the Wagadou Forest in western Mali.
Mali and Mauritania have struggled to coordinate operations against Islamists in their shared desert regions but they carried out a joint attack on al Qaeda fighters in the Wagadou Forest earlier this year.
There was no immediate comment on casualties or Malian involvement.
“Our forces this morning carried out preventative air strikes in order to destroy the enemy,” the spokesman for the armed forces communications department said, according to AMI.
Al Qaeda’s North African wing, which is known as AQIM, has become increasingly active in Mauritania, Mali and Niger in recent years. There are fears that weapons from Libya’s conflict have been ferried south and are now in their hands.
Backed in particular by former colonial ruler France, Mauritania has sought to take a hard line with the Islamists while Mali has been accused of being too soft on the fighters, who collaborate with local rebels and bandits.
Mauritania said that at least 15 Islamists were killed when it carried out a joint operation in the Wagadou forest with Malian forces in June.
Experts say AQIM has raised millions of dollars through ransom payments from kidnapped Westerners and the group has also tried to carry out attacks on regional governments and the interests of their Western backers.