Persecution of Non-Muslims (Mauritania)

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Note that the persecution of apostates and the persecution of homosexuals are covered in separate pages

Muslims linked to the "Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat" attack a tourist picnic at a desert roadside, leaving a Frenchman in his 70s (recovering from bullet wounds) as the only survivor. His two sons, his brother and a friend are all killed

Prosecutors in Mauritania have alleged that men suspected of murdering four French tourists are linked to a group allied to al-Qaeda.

At least two of three suspects now being hunted by authorities were linked to the group by prosecutors.

Four tourists - apparently members of the same family - were shot by gunmen near the town of Aleg on Monday.

A fifth person, said to be the father of the family, survived and has been transferred to Senegal for treatment.

Some arrests have been reported, though the number of arrests and the identity of those detained is unclear.

Such an attack is rare in the south of Mauritania, a former French colony which enjoys relative stability. The north of the country is generally regarded as less safe for travellers.

Tuesday's attack happened after the five victims stopped on the side of a road for a picnic.

The gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons, before speeding off in a car that was later recovered in Aleg, about 250km (160 miles) east of the capital Nouakchott.

The victims were initially reported to have been robbed, though the interior ministry now says they were not, the Associated Press news agency reports.

In their statement, prosecutors in Nouakchott said murder suspects were thought to belong to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb - a group formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.
Mauritania probes 'al-Qaeda link'
BBC News, December 25, 2007

US Christian aid worker who provided training in computer skills, sewing and literacy, is shot in the head several times and killed by two Muslims after he resists kidnapping attempt, he is accused of “missionary activities”

Christopher Leggett, 39, was killed Tuesday morning (June 23) in front of the language and computer school he operated in Nouakchott, the capital city.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, North African unit of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, claimed responsibility for the murder on an Internet site, accusing Leggett of “missionary activities.” A North African al-Qaeda spokesman aired a statement on an Arab TV station saying the group killed Leggett because he was allegedly trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

Advocacy organization Middle East Concern reported that Leggett “resisted what appeared to be an attempt to kidnap him and was then shot in the head several times by his two assailants.”

His family issued a statement today saying they forgave the murderers but asked that they be caught and prosecuted.

“In a spirit of love, we express our forgiveness for those who took away the life of our remarkable son,” the family said in the statement, distributed in English, French and Arabic. “Chris had a deep love for Mauritania and its people, a love that we share. Despite this terrible event, we harbor no ill will for the Mauritanian people. On a spiritual level, we forgive those responsible, asking only that justice be applied against those who killed our son.”

Mauritania’s minister of justice reportedly said that Leggett’s death “was a great loss to Mauritania.” Leggett, his wife and four children lived for seven years in Mauritania, where he directed an aid agency that provided training in computer skills, sewing and literacy, and he also ran a micro-finance program, according to the Cleveland Daily Banner.

Mauritania’s National Foundation for the Defence of Democracy (FNDD) called for the killers to be brought to justice.

“This hateful crime, which was committed in broad daylight close to the market in El Ksar, one of the busiest in Nouakchott, once again raises the issue of instability and terrorism, which is often used by the military authorities to justify all sorts of unnatural situations,” the FNDD the statement read.
Islamic Extremists Kill U.S. Aid Worker
World Watch Monitor, June 30, 2009
As funeral services were held in Tennessee for Christian aid worker Christopher Leggett yesterday, tensions remained high for Christians in the capital of Mauritania, where he was slain last week.

A Christian worker who works in the capital city of Nouakchott told Compass that following the street assassination of Leggett by an al-Qaeda linked group the morning of June 23, the danger level in the city has forced him and his team to temporarily relocate to a European country.

“After the crime various believers were arrested, and the community of workers is going through very tense moments because of another threat by al-Qaeda and the lack of security in the country,” said the Christian, who requested anonymity. “Our leaders have asked us to leave the country for a while, as the government had sent a security force of 10 policemen to guard our home 24 hours a day. Our mobility was limited, and we left the country under police escort to the airport.”

Leggett was shot in a crowded market area in front of the language and computer school he operated in Nouakchott. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African unit of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, claimed responsibility for the murder on an Internet site, accusing Leggett of “missionary activities.” A North African al-Qaeda spokesman aired a statement on an Arab TV station saying the group killed Leggett because he was allegedly trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

At least two gunmen approached Leggett in broad daylight, stunning local people unaccustomed to such brazen attacks.

“It’s a very crowded area, and it was in the morning in the midst of many people,” the Christian worker told Compass. “Apparently they wanted to kidnap him, and as they were not able, they then shot him three times in the head and he died.”

More than 1,000 mourners, including many from outside the United States, reportedly attended Leggett’s funeral in Cleveland, Tenn., where he grew up. Husband and father of four children ages 15, 13, 12 and 8, Leggett taught at a center specializing in computer science and languages in El Kasr, a lower-class neighborhood in Nouakchott. Leggett, his wife Jackie and their children had lived in Mauritania for more than six years.

Leggett directed an aid agency that provided training in computer skills, sewing and literacy, and he also ran a micro-finance program.
Christians in Mauritania Tense after Murder of Aid Worker
Edward Ross, World Watch Monitor, July 1, 2009

Suicide bomber, formally identified as a member of the Jihadist movement, bombs the French embassy in Nouakchott. Two French citizens wounded, another slightly injured

The 2009 Nouakchott suicide bombing occurred in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, on August 8, 2009, outside the embassy of France. It was the first instance of a suicide bombing in the history of Mauritania. The bombing killed the perpetrator and wounded three people.

The attack occurred three weeks after Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz had claimed victory in the contested 2009 Mauritanian presidential election. His inauguration took place on August 5, 2009, just three days before the Nouakchott bombing.

Mauritania has witnessed a series of terrorist attacks against Western interests in recent years. Four French tourists were kidnapped and murdered in 2007. On June 23, 2009, an American teacher, Christopher Logest, was shot and killed in an attack in Nouakchott. The terrorist group, Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed responsibility for both attacks.

The attacker, a young man, was reportedly wearing a boubou, a traditional men's garment common in Mauritania and other regions of West Africa. The bomber wore an explosive belt. The man blew himself up on the sidewalk between the French embassy and the Embassy of Libya at approximately 7:00 pm local time. While both embassies were near the suicide bombing, the target was clearly the French embassy. The explosion did not damage the French embassy. Two employees of the French embassy, who were identified as paramilitary gendarmes, were jogging nearby at the time of the attack. Both were hospitalized overnight with minor injuries. One other person was slightly injured in the attack. The detonations marked the first time that a suicide bombing had taken place in Mauritania.

The government of France announced an investigation of the terrorist attack. The French government issued a statement promising to support Mauritanian authorities during the inquiry.

The Mauritanian police identified the suicide bomber as a Mauritanian man born in 1987. Authorities stated that the perpetrator had been "formally identified as a member of the Jihadist movement."
2009 Nouakchott suicide bombing
Wikipedia, accessed May 10, 2013

Three Spanish volunteer aid workers (two men and one woman) kidnapped by gunmen while delivering supplies to impoverished villages, Spain's interior minister suspected al-Qaida-linked Muslims

Three Spanish volunteer aid workers were kidnapped by gunmen while delivering supplies to impoverished villages in Mauritania, and Spain's interior minister said Monday he suspected al-Qaida-linked Islamists.

Two men and a woman were kidnapped in the West African country, according to Julia Tabernejo, a spokeswoman for Barcelona-based aid group Barcelona Accion Solidaria. The three were in a 4-wheel drive vehicle at the very back end of a convoy when the attack happened Sunday.

"I think the others heard shooting, and when they stopped, the car was empty," she said. "Those three were no longer in it."

She identified the aid workers as Albert Vilalta, Roque Pascual and Alicia Gamez. The two men are businessmen and are about 50 years old. She said Gamez is a civil servant in the court system.

A Spanish foreign ministry official said the aid workers were abducted Sunday while traveling in a convoy of 13 vehicles. The kidnapping occurred after two of the vehicles became separated from the convoy for unknown reasons, according to the official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with ministry rules.

A ministry statement said Mauritanian forces are now accompanying the rest of the convoy at Spain's request.

Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told reporters on Monday that he feared the kidnapping was the work of extremists.

"All signs are that it is a kidnapping," he said in Brussels as he entered a meeting with European Union officials. "If that is the case, as I fear it is, everything suggests it is a kidnapping by AQMI, which is al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa. It would not be the first kidnapping it has carried out in that area of European or American aid workers."

Mauritania, once known as a predominantly moderate Muslim nation on Africa's western coast, has been rocked by attacks by the North African al-Qaida group.
. . .

Elsewhere in West Africa, the group also has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two U.N. staffers in December, and the kidnapping of four European tourists a month later. One of the four Europeans, a Briton, was killed by his captors. The U.N. staffers and the other tourists were released.