PARIS— The French military helped Mauritanian forces thwart an attack by suspected al-Qaida members in northwest Africa in an operation that left six extremists dead, officials said Friday.
Four others allegedly from al-Qaida's North African offshoot escaped during the raid, including one who was wounded, according to Mauritanian Interior Minister Mohamed Ould Boilil. The group had been planning to attack a Mauritanian military base next week, he said.
Questions swirled around the mysterious operation against al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, which is active in the Sahara Desert and the arid Sahel region. The French Defense Ministry would not say when or where the raid took place.
The Spanish newspaper El Pais and other media said the raid early Thursday was an attempt to free a 78-year-old French hostage. But El Pais said the troops did not find Michel Germaneau, an engineer who worked for Algeria's oil industry who was abducted April 22.