Mauritania's Aziz to return home on Saturday after shooting

PARIS Tue Nov 20, 2012 3:31pm GMT

Mauritania's President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz listens to French President as they speak to journalists after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, November 20, 2012. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Mauritania's President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz listens to French President as they speak to journalists after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, November 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

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PARIS (Reuters) - Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz will return home on Saturday after recovering in Paris from what he says was a shooting accident last month.

Aziz, an ally of the West in its fight against al Qaeda in Africa, was flown to France on October 14 after his government said a military patrol had fired on his convoy accidentally.

Rumours have abounded since then, with many in the coup-prone country questioning the official version of events.

Government spokesman Rassoul Ould Khal told Reuters in Nouakchott that Aziz was due to return on Saturday morning.

In Paris, Aziz, slightly out of breath and speaking softly said: "I'm doing very well. I'm beginning to recover ... but I am trying to move things along and it will be fine."

Aziz's failure to return to Mauritania after being discharged from hospital last month has also raised questions about who is running the country in his absence.

Although Mauritania has been stable politically since Aziz seized power in 2008, it lies on the fringes of the Sahara where Islamist gunmen hold increasing sway. Al Qaeda-linked militants have seized the north of its neighbour Mali.

Aziz said the situation across the Sahel zone, south of the Sahara, was difficult but said there was a willingness among the countries of the region to deal with the rise in insecurity.

Mauritania launched several attacks on Islamist bases across the border in Mali in 2010 and 2011, provoking threats of revenge from al Qaeda-linked fighters.

Those Islamist groups now occupy the northern two-thirds of Mali after hijacking a Tuareg rebellion earlier this year in the wake of a military coup in Mali's capital Bamako.

Split between black and Arab Africa, Mauritania is bigger than Turkey but has only 3.5 million people.

(Writing by Mark John; Editing by Louise Ireland and Daniel Flynn)

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