Mauritanian army kills top official of Al-Qaeda in Mali
NOUAKCHOTT - Mauritanian forces killed a top official of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) during an air raid into Malian territory, a Mauritanian security source said Friday.
Mauritanian national Teyeb Ould Sidi Aly, "the mastermind of the attacks carried out by criminal gangs against our country since 2008," was killed Thursday in "bombing of enemy elements in the Wagadou," a forest in west Mali, the source said.
"The dangerous criminal was in one of two cars destroyed by the air raid with other terrorists," he added.
"We formally identified him. He was to have had vehicles in Mauritania blown up as part of a suicide mission," the source said. Ould Sidi Aly was often in charge of such missions, he affirmed.
Ould Sidi Aly, whose age was not given, had been one of AQIM's most wanted men since 2007, when he started planting cells in Mauritania and planning suicide bombings, according to the Mauritanian intelligence service.
In February this year he allegedly headed operations carried out with explosives-filled vehicles against Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and the French embassy in Nouakchott.
"He was really dangerous, reckless... his death comes as a tough blow to AQIM and a major victory for Mauritania against criminal gangs," the security source said.
The Mauritanian army said in a statement Thursday it had destroyed an AQIM base in western Mali, where an attack was being planned against Mauritania.
In June Mauritanian troops conducted a raid in the same forest, which borders the two countries, saying it had destroyed a AQIM base housing heavy weaponry.
The army reported 15 deaths among the AQIM fighters and two of its own.
Both nations' armies have since kept close watch over the area, where AQIM had tried to set up a new base, according to military sources.
Mali and Mauritania are among the nations hardest hit by AQIM activities, along with Niger and Algeria, where the terrorist network has carried out attacks, kidnappings of westerners and trafficking.
AQIM is currently holding four French citizens kidnapped in northern Niger in September 2010.