Mauritania vows to hunt down Al-Qaeda

'We will never accept negotiating with bands of criminals'

NOUAKCHOTT - Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz Tuesday vowed to press on with attacks on "criminal elements" after a failed air raid in Mali on suspected members of Al-Qaeda's north African branch.
"It's like this that we have responded to criminals ... by chasing them and hitting them hard," he said, adding: "They will be hunted wherever they are, relentlessly."
The president, speaking in Nouadhibou, the country's economic capital, said Mauritania would not negotiate for the release of a gendarme kidnapped in December whom the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has threatened to kill.
"We will never accept negotiating with bands of criminals, it's a question of principle on which we will never compromise."
Two civilians were injured in Sunday's Mauritanian air raid in neighbouring Mali, an official said Tuesday.
Initial reports from the Mauritanian army suggested it was members of AQIM who had been hurt in the air raid which took place on Sunday.
"Two planes from the Mauritanian army left two Malian civilians injured, a woman and a young man from the Timbuktu region," said regional government official Mohamed Ould Taher.
Mauritanian army planes had spotted a convoy of "terrorists" and opened fire, but the vehicle occupants spotted the planes and fled, a military source said Monday.
The country has carried out several preventative military operations in neighbouring Mali since July 2010.
Mauritania, Algeria, Niger and Mali face growing insecurity from AQIM operations such as attacks, kidnappings of Westerners and various types of trafficking, including drugs, over a vast area that is difficult to police.