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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

American Teacher Killed in Mauritania

An American citizen was shot and killed in the Mauritanian capital after resisting a suspected al-Qaeda kidnap attempt:
GUNMEN have shot dead an American in the capital of Mauritania, where the slaying of foreigners by suspected al-Qaeda militants in 2007 has already heightened fears of extremism across West Africa.

The man was shot several times in the head from close range today after he resisted an apparent kidnap attempt, a witness said.

Al-Qaeda militants were blamed for the killing of four French tourists in Mauritania on December 24, 2007 that heightened concerns about extremist attacks.

A gun attack on the Israeli embassy on February 1, 2008 left three people wounded and was claimed by an al-Qaeda offshoot.

Today's shooting happened about 8.30am local time outside a private language and computer school run by the American in the capital Nouakchott, situated opposite a mosque.

"A foreigner has been shot dead, apparently by youths who fled. We are investigating the case," a police source said, adding that the victim was an American and that US embassy officials were quickly on the scene.

According to a resident who witnessed the incident, the man apparently tried to resist being bundled into a black Toyota car by a group of youths.

"When they failed to get him into the car, the youths killed him," the witness said by telephone.

Top security officials, the governor of Nouakchott and the state prosecutor visited the scene, where the body lay for several hours after the shooting.

Another witness said bystanders went to the man's aid thinking it was a fistfight when the attackers pointed their guns at them.

"The American put up very strong resistance, forcing one of his attackers to the ground, who shot him in the head. He fired three times," said the witness.

The caretaker of a nearby building said the attackers were "young, fair-skinned, Mauritanians wearing little beards, who had been waiting for the American since dawn".

She said that the attackers "were talking among each other and appeared very agitated" as they waited for their victim.

The US national, who has not been named, was resident in Nouakchott for several years and spoke the local Arab dialect well, locals in the central Ksar district said.

One police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was disturbing that the gunmen, operating on a busy street in broad daylight, had made no attempt to hide their identity.

"That's worrying and shows that a certain industry of terrorist crime has taken root in our country," he said.

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