debkafile: Three people injured in shooting attack on empty Israeli embassy building in Nouakchott before dawn Friday

Half a dozen gunmen yelling Allah Akhbar – locals or an al Qaeda-linked band – shot up the empty Israeli embassy building before dawn Feb. 1. The Mauritanian security guards on duty returned the fire. Some weeks ago, debkafile reports, the Israeli embassy staff and their families were moved for safety to protected hideouts in the town. The foreign ministry in Jerusalem has sent a special flight fitted out as a flying counter-terror command to Nouakchott. The security officers aboard will decide on the spot whether to leave the embassy staff in place or evacuate them.
The foreign office is doing its utmost to keep a functioning Israeli diplomatic presence in the Mauritanian capital, or at least the ambassador. Boaz Bismut. The embassy’s closure and severance of diplomatic relations between Israel and an Arab nation over the crisis generated in Gaza would be a victory for the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas. The local media have consistently blasted Israel over this crisis.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources in North Africa report that while the attack may have been the work of al Qaeda in the Maghreb, the gunmen may also have been sent by local Islamist parties. A week ago, they all signed a petition handed to president Cheikh Abdallahi Sidi Mohamed Ould demanding that Mauritania as a member of the Arab League was obliged to cut off of its diplomatic relations with Israel because of its siege against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
The petition came on the heels of a statement issued by the Nouakchott government condemning Israeli operations against the Palestinians, because they “may lead the whole region to an atmosphere of insecurity and permanent tension that does not serve the objectives of peace and security.”
The president, who also approved stormy anti-Israel demonstrations in the streets of the capital this week, is believed to have staged the petition himself.
The suspicion that the authorities were also behind the shooting attack is suggested by the way it was executed – scattered fire which carefully avoided fatalities and the ambassador’s residence next door. Al Qaeda would have been more ruthless. If, on the other hand, al Qaeda was responsible, it would be bad news for Mauritania, meaning that they had reached into the heart of its capital for the first time and extended their field of operations from their center in Algeria.
Thus far, the closest the Maghreb branch of al Qaeda has come to Nouakchott was 300 km away on the fringes of the Sahara, where they murdered four French tourists on Christmas Eve.
On Jan. 4, an al Qaeda threat sufficed to cancel the Dakar Rally running through Mauritania at the last minute. Five of its members detained by Mauritanian intelligence reported that the organization was determined to continue attacking Western targets in the region.

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