France condemns Mauritania suicide attack

PARIS/NOUAKCHOTT Sun Aug 9, 2009 6:43pm BST

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PARIS/NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) - France Sunday condemned a suicide bombing at the French embassy in Mauritania that injured three people and vowed to fight groups committing such attacks.

The bombing Saturday in Nouakchott came three days after Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who overthrew the Islamic state's first freely elected leader last year, was sworn in as president, promising to make the fight against al Qaeda a priority.

No group has yet come forward to claim responsibility for the attack outside the embassy walls, which a witness said caused no major damage to the building.

The three injured included two embassy guards, France's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"France reiterates its determination to fight against terrorism together with the authorities and the people of Mauritania," it said.

This summer has seen an upturn in violence in the normally peaceful former French colony.

"An attempted suicide bombing is a new event in Mauritania, we have to be wary of this new type of threat," a senior Mauritanian security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"From now on we will have to take extra security measures, but even so, there is no such thing as zero risk," he added.

In June, Al Qaeda's North Africa wing claimed responsibility for shooting an American aid worker in Nouakchott, saying it was in retaliation for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

French Secretary of State for Cooperation, Alain Joyandet, who lauded Abdel Aziz's anti-terrorist stance when he attended the president's inauguration, said France would help Mauritania in its fight against terrorism.

"We can't not make a connection between this act and the inauguration of the president," he said on television channel France 3 Sunday.

"France was delighted at the democratic election of the new president Aziz who made very strong declarations against terrorism," he said.

"France is a historic partner of Mauritania and together we want to fight terrorism."

(Writing by Daniel Magnowski; Reporting by Vincent Fertey in Nouakchott, Sophie Hardach and Elizabeth Pineau in Paris; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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