Troops opened fire and shot Mauritania’s president on Saturday evening, leaving the West African nation’s leader “lightly injured,” state news reported.
President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s convoy “mistakenly” came under fire as it was heading back toward the capital of Nouakchott, the official AMI news agency reported. The gunshots came from a military unit stationed alongside the road.
Government spokesman Hamdi Ould Mahjoub described the shooting as “friendly fire,” according to the same report. The president is being treated at Nouakchott’s military hospital and doing well.
A former general, Aziz came to power in a bloodless 2008 military coup — one of many such coups the country of about 3.4 million people has had since it became independent from France in 1960. He ousted Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who had been his nation’s first democratically elected leader, according to the U.S. State Department.
Aziz was elected president in 2009. Still, even with that result, the CIA describes the country’s leadership as a “military junta.”
Security in Mauritania has been ratcheted up in recent weeks amid concerns about “armed terrorist groups” in nearby northern Mali, according to Magharebia, a website sponsored by the U.S. Africa Command, a part of the U.S. military focused on the continent.
The measures include a bolstered security presence on main streets, near embassies and by government buildings in Nouakchott, as well as stepped-up patrols at key intersections and public markets, Magharebia reports.
No official reason has been given for the enhanced security, according to the report. But the publication, quoting terrorism experts and local news reports, said it may be related to threats posed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.