NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (AP) — Al-Qaida’s North Africa branch purportedly claimed responsibility Wednesday for ambushing an army patrol in Mauritania and kidnapping 12 soldiers whom officials initially reported had been killed.
Authorities first said the soldiers had been shot dead in Monday’s attack, but the bodies were not found when army reinforcements swept the area. Government officials said some traces of blood were found, but they could only classify the soldiers as missing.
“This jihadist operation targeted the allies of the Americans, the crusaders on Islamic Mauritanian territory occupied by infidels,” said the Internet statement attributed to al-Qaida.
The statement was published on several Web sites known to be close to extremist Islamic movements and at least one that has published previous statements attributed to the terrorist group.
Posted on an Arabic Web site Wednesday and dated a day earlier, the statement warned the attack “will not be the last.”
It said the attackers seized three vehicles, arms and ammunition, and “valiant holy warriors took 12 soldiers prisoner, among them a captain who led the patrol.”