President on the mend after 'accidental' shooting


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The Independent Online

The Mauritanian President appeared on television to call for calm yesterday, hours after being shot by soldiers in what he said was an accident.

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is seen by the West as an ally against al-Qa'ida's increasing presence in the Sahara, has ruled over a north-west African country that has been largely stable since he seized power in 2008. Mr Abdel Aziz, pictured, was wounded late on Saturday when a military patrol opened fire on his convoy about 25 miles from the capital, Nouakchott. A medical source said he was shot in the abdomen.

"I want to calm all citizens," the President 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 Mauritania's former colonial ruler, France, for further treatment.

Mr Abdel Aziz won an election in 2009 in the largely desert country, which straddles black and Arab Africa on the West coast of the continent. His government launched numerous military operations against 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-Qa'ida.

Mr Abdel Aziz has faced some protests over complaints ranging from corruption to his poor handling of a recent food crisis. Reuters