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Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – Planned assassination of Mauritania’s military ruler

The Islamic website,, published a report on October 26, 2008 concerning the thwarted assassination attempt of Mauritania’s military ruler.[1] The following is the content of the report:

A Mauritian security source announced that police had managed to dismantle an armed cell of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) as they developed plans to assassinate the Chairman of the Military Council, General Muhammad Ould Abd Al-Aziz, and kidnap the former Israeli ambassador in Nouakchott.[2]

The source said that the cell, whose members were all arrested in Nouakchott, was also planning on carrying out armed robberies in order to finance the establishment of the organization’s camps in Algeria and in the desert of northern Mali.

In this context, it is important to note that on October 23rd, the website reported that Al-Qaeda had moved all of the organization’s training camps to Mauritania. The website reported on Al-Qaeda plans to launch attacks against European targets from these camps, due to, among other reasons, the stabilization process in Iraq.[3]

Background on Al-Qaeda’s activities in the Maghreb

The attack on the Israel embassy in Nouakchott on February 1, 2008 and the last report on the foiling of the kidnapping attempt of the former Israel ambassador, stress the fact that Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide are on the Al-Qaeda organization’s agenda, as the organization’s senior officials keep on threatening. In addition, Mauritania is considered to be a popular target for the organization’s attacks, mostly because it is the only Moslem country which does not have a border with Israel, and which has official diplomatic relations since 1999.

Two and a half months ago, in August 2008, the Al-Qaeda leader in the Islamic Maghreb, Abdelmalik Droukdal, called for jihad against the Mauritanian government, “the ally of the Zionists and the Crusaders in Mauritania”. In a message published on the internet, he stated that it is the duty of every Moslem to fight against these heretics.[4]

On December 30, 2007, the NEFA (Nine/Eleven Finding Answers) Foundation published the translation of a statement issued by the “Al-Qaeda Network in the Islamic Maghreb” (formerly known as the Salafi Group for Prayer and Combat, GSPC) claiming responsibility for recent terrorist attacks in Algeria and neighboring Mauritania. The statement read:

“This operation has come at a time when the Israeli flag has been seen raised in the beloved, but tarnished city of Nouakchott… at a time when the Mauritanian regime has consumed itself with supporting the crusaders, arresting young Muslim men, spreading hunger among its people – and all while guarding its lords… and fighting against the jihad and the mujahideen… We inform the slaves of America and France to be prepared for more horrific events coming their way.”[5]

It should be noted that already back in April 30, 2008, the U.S. State Department published its annual country reports on terrorism, providing the following assessment of the situation in Mauritania:[6]

“The December 2007 murder of four French tourists and the attack on a military checkpoint were both low-level attacks, but highlighted the fact that AQIM was active in the country despite the newly elected government’s significantly increased level of cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism.

In June, 24 of 25 individuals accused of ties to AQIM were acquitted, and the remaining defendant sentenced in absentia to two years in prison. On July 31, the court acquitted 14 of 19 persons accused of complicity in the 2005 AQIM attack on a Mauritanian military base, for lack of evidence. The remaining five defendants received sentences from two to five years. In late October, the government arrested five other individuals for suspected ties to AQIM.

The Government of Mauritania continued working to prevent terrorist organizations, notably AQIM, from using its territory. These efforts remained constrained, however, by limited resources and training, and by the inherent challenges of controlling the sparsely-populated and porous regions bordering Algeria and Mali. The government continued to identify and respond to AQIM cells operating in country. Western Missions warned their citizens of AQIM efforts to target westerners in Mauritania, particularly those involved in the petroleum industry.


[1] The report appeared also in the Kuwaiti daily paper “Al-Qabas”:

[2] At the beginning of February 2008, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb attacked the Israeli Embassy in Mauritania. No embassy employees were injured in the attack. See:,