Mauritania, a large country next to the Atlantic Ocean, a vast expanse made up of desert, the sand constantly swirling towards the capital, Nouakchott.
Thousands of kilometres are open to bordering countries, nicknamed the triangle of terrorism. So it is very hard for the army to control.
The population of the country is three million and is made up of Arabs, Berberes and Africans. The main religion is Islam.
Mauritania was formerly called the country of a million poets. Today, it has been renamed, the country of coup d’etats.
Since 1960, the year of independence from France, there have been five coups d’etats, the last involving the current president, General Mohamed Weld Abdul Aziz last July. He took power from elected president Seedi Weld Cheikh Abdallah claiming he was weak, and incapable of stopping terrorism that started 4 years ago.
“The state’s high council, takes an oath before God and before you, that all the problems of the country will be resolved. The army and security are interdependent with the democracy in this country,”
But the opposition, represented by Ahmed Oueld Dada descended on the streets to reclaim power.
One woman said “Mauritania deserves legitimate elections, and given the current situation we want to create a government and keep our sovreignty. We are united here today.”
But the general who won the presidential elections last August and who promised to fight terrorism, saw a suicide bomb attack just a few days after his election. It was outside the French Embassy. Two french guards and a passer-by were hurt, the attacker died.
In the forgotton suburbs that lace the capital the residents feel condemned to a life of perpetual poverty – a poverty that might easily put them in the arms of terrorism.
One local man said: “Five of us have lived here over 21 years. The state knows nothing about our misery, we live like animals…we have nothing for our hardship.”
In these quarters, is the house of the father of one terrorist. Our reporter asked him: “Why would your son do such a thing?
He replied “ Everything began a year ago when he told me he was going to Senegal for his studies. We stopped having news from him and we didn’t know if he was dead or alive. We were counting on him to help us survive.”
“But how did you know your son did it?”
“We didn’t realise until the police came at 5.30in the morning.”
“But didn’t you see a change in his behaviour?”
“Yes, we did notice a little change but I would never accept that a son of mine would commit such an act I would go to the police myself and hand him over – it’s the right thing to do.”
“You would really hand him over?”
“Yes of course if I had known.”
Moussa grew up in this place. Years later, armed with an explosive belt, he threw himself against the French Embassy.
Terrorism struck again against the French this time in Aleg, a town in the south of the country. Four people of the same family died, the fifth was seriously wounded. The attack happened on Christmas Eve 2007.
But these acts did not recieve any support from the local residents. The majority protested against them the very next day. They held French flags as a sign of solidarity and asked, why the French?
The terrorists act against foreigners, not just French people. In July last year an American, Christophe Lekate, died in the heart of the capital. The Mauritanian security forces used all its force to find the killers. Four days later the chief of the group was detained before he managed to activate his explosive belt.
The Mauritanian French want to strengthen their fight agaisnt terrorism and the EU is more than willing to help them.
Terrorism threat in Mauritania