NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) – Mauritania’s president appeared on television to call for calm on Sunday, hours after being shot by soldiers in what he said was an accident.
Seen by the West as an ally against al Qaeda’s increasing presence in the Sahara Desert, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has ruled over a northwest African country that has been largely stable since he seized power in a 2008 coup.
Abdel Aziz was wounded late on Saturday when a military patrol opened fire on his convoy about 40 km (25 miles) from the capital, Nouakchott. A medical source said he had been shot in the abdomen.
“I want to calm all citizens,” Abdel Aziz said in a broadcast on state television from his hospital bed. “I want to reassure everyone about my state of health after this incident committed by error.”
Soon after the broadcast, he was flown to former colonial power France for further treatment, a Mauritanian official said.
Abdel Aziz won an election in 2009 in the largely desert country, straddles black and Arab Africa on the West coast of the continent.
Abdel Aziz’s government launched numerous military operations on Islamist bases in neighbouring Mali before a rebellion split that country in two, leaving much of it in the hands of heavily-armed groups linked to al Qaeda. Reuters