Mauritanian Military Says 12 AQIM Fighters Killed in Combat
    2010-09-18 17:49:07     Xinhua      Web Editor: Gongming
 

The Mauritanian military killed 12 members of the regional terrorist group AQIM overnight, it announced here on Saturday.

The military also admitted that two of its soldiers died in the combat which was launched on Friday night in northern Mali and continued on early Saturday.

In its first statement made since the fighting erupted, the military said the army killed "12 armed terrorists" and wounded a number of others on Friday."Two Mauritanian military personnel were killed and four others wounded," it added.

The Mauritanian army rounded up about 20 vehicles of the Al- Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) nearly the northern border town of Areich Hindi in Mali, the military said.

The Malian military has confirmed the anti-terror combat in its territory, but said the fighting later expanded into the Mauritanian territory.

Both Mali and Mauritania are countries of a four-nation joint command to fight AQIM. The command, which is headquartered in southern Algeria, also includes Niger.

The four countries have held a series of regional meetings this year on cooperation in fighting the looming threat from AQIM, whose activities are characterized by kidnapping and drug trafficking in the Sahel-Sahara region, especially in the desert of northern Mali.

The overnight flare followed reports this week that five French nationals,one Togolese and one Malagasy were kidnapped in Niger, where they work for the French nuclear energy firm Areva and subcontractor Satom in the Arlit region.

No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction, but French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Friday that AQIM was likely behind the kidnapping.

"We think if it is not exactly the same group, at least the movement AQIM may have links. But I have no certainty because the abduction has not been claimed yet," Kouchner said.

The region has hit the headlines several times for the kidnapping of Europeans by AQIM since 2009. Two Spaniards were taken hostage in November 2009 in Mauritania, but later reportedly moved to the AQIM base in northern Mali. In July, a 78-year-old French hostage was killed in retaliation for a cross-border attack by French and Mauritanian commandos on an AQIM base in northern Mali.

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