NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) - A suspected Islamist attacked a Mauritanian military base with a car bomb on Tuesday night, but the attack was foiled when soldiers opened fire on the vehicle, a Mauritanian military said.
Local media said the driver was the only person killed when the vehicle exploded.
The attack in Nema, in the country’s east, was the first using a car bomb in Mauritania, one of several countries in West Africa facing an increased threat from Sahara-based fighters from al Qaeda’s North African wing, known as AQIM.
“Soldiers fired warning shots but the car didn’t stop. It exploded,” said a security source, who asked not to be named but was at the scene in Nema, 1,200 km east of Nouakchott.
The security source could not confirm the identity of the attacker but said Islamists were believed to be responsible.
Local media said the four-wheel drive vehicle had been packed with explosives and the driver was killed, while three soldiers were wounded.
The foiled bombing comes days after the Islamists freed two Spanish hostages they had been holding for nine months.
It also follows AQIM’s claim of responsibility last month for the killing of a French hostage in response to a raid by Mauritanian troops back by French forces against one of its bases in the Sahara desert.
AQIM, and groups linked to the Islamists, have carried out a wave of kidnappings over the past year, earning themselves millions of dollars in ransom payments, analysts say.
But the group has also launched a number of attacks on local armies and foreign interests in the region.