Three arrested in embassy attack

Israeli, US investigators assisting Mauritania in probe of shooting in northwest African country.

map of mauritania 88 (photo credit:)
map of mauritania 88
(photo credit: )
Three people were arrested in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott on Saturday morning a day after allegedly opening fire near the Israeli Embassy in the northwest African country. The suspects were arrested after trying to flee a police roadblock on their way to a waiting getaway car. The identities of the suspected attackers were not released. Mauritanian authorities reported that Israeli and US investigators were participating in the probe of Friday's terror attack in which six gunmen reportedly opened fire near the embassy, trading fire with guards before fleeing and screaming "Allah Akbar." The six men arrived by car and regrouped in front of a discotheque that is just beside the embassy, said Hamza Ould Bilal, a taxi driver who was parked outside the club called "The VIP." He saw them pull out their automatic weapons and scream "God is Great!" in Arabic, before assailing the embassy, he said. Guards at the embassy traded fire with the gunmen, repelling them. The men fled on foot, before jumping into a car, said Bilal. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said that since the attack occurred in the early hours of the morning, at a time when few embassy workers had arrived, no embassy workers were hurt. An eyewitness said he saw at least a woman wounded. Later Friday it was revealed three French nationals were hurt, one of them a restaurant owner, another a passerby, and a third French citizen hurt himself while falling when he fled the scene. The Mauritanian government claimed that the target of the terrorists was not the embassy but the nearby discotheque. Israeli Ambassador to Mauritania Boaz Bismut told media outlets that despite foreign reports, only one gunman had carried out the attack. "Israel and Mauritania have had full diplomatic relations since 1999 ... both countries understand the severity of the incident," Bismut told Army Radio. The neighborhood has been roped off by the Mauritanian military, which is preventing journalists and visitors from entering. Last week Mauritanian protesters mounted pressure on their government to cut ties with Israel as a punishment for alleged Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Among the demonstrators were members of the government's main opposition. On Christmas Eve, four French tourists were killed by gunmen while picnicking on the side of a road in Mauritania, an act the government blamed on a terror sleeper cell affiliated with al-Qaida. Their killing led the French organizers of the famous Dakar Rally to cancel the long-standing trans-Saharan race, which would have traversed the country last month.