Militants attack Israeli embassy in Mauritania

Wound three, including French woman


Unidentified gunmen opened fire on the Israeli embassy in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott early on Friday, causing several injuries, including a French national. Israel condemned the attack, calling it an "act of terrorism".

An eyewitness told AFP that a group of six men had opened fire with automatic weapons, wounding five people including a "foreign woman".

The attackers exchanged fire with guards at the embassy. A nearby bar in the center of Nouakchott was also hit before the assailants fled.

Armed Mauritanian soldiers immediately cordoned off the embassy building.

Emergency services initially reported some people were wounded in the shooting, but Israel's ambassador to Mauritania, Boaz Bismuth, said all embassy staff were unhurt.

"At 2:20 this morning, there was shooting at the Israeli embassy in Nouakchott. All the embassy staff, Israeli and Mauritanian, are safe," he told Reuters.

The attack took place shortly after 2:00 am (0200 GMT).

Israel condemned the assault, as the U.S.-based IntelCenter reported that al-Qaeda's Ayman Al-Zawahri had called on Mauritanians to attack the Israeli embassy in Nouakchott a year ago.

"It is a clear act of terrorism that entered the long line of attacks that have targeted our diplomatic representation abroad for several years," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel told AFP.

He underlined the importance that Israel places on its links with Mauritania, one of the three Arab countries -- along with Egypt and Jordan -- with which it has full diplomatic relations.

He said the ministry had sent "specialist security officers" to Nouakchott to look into beefing up embassy security.

IntelCenter, which monitors terrorist activities, said al-Zawahri had called for an attack on the embassy in a video released by al-Qaeda's media mouthpiece, As-Sahab, on February 13, 2007.
"This fits the pattern of al-Qaeda announcing targeting preferences in their public messaging up to a year or more before attacks occur," said IntelCenter CEO Ben Venzke.

In December, four French adventure tourists were killed in Mauritania by gunmen with suspected al-Qaeda links.