Mauritania leader Abdelaziz 'accidentally' shot

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz. Photo: October 2012 Mr Abdelaziz's life is apparently not in danger

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Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz has been shot and wounded in what officials say was an accident.

He has undergone a successful operation on his arm and is travelling abroad soon for further treatment, they say.

Earlier, Communications Minister Hamdi Ould Mahjoub said on national TV that a military patrol had mistakenly opened fire on the presidential convoy.

Initially, Mauritanian radio reported that Mr Abdelaziz had escaped an assassination attempt.

Analysis

Many Nouakchott inhabitants tend to believe the "shot by mistake" claims as they are used to seeing the president walk in the city, play sport and drive his car without guards.

Some local reports say the president was targeted by a militant group while travelling from Tweila, north of the capital, where he spends most weekends. He was travelling overnight to the capital as the week starts in Mauritania on Sunday.

Hundreds gathered around the military hospital to hear the latest news about the president. News reports confirmed that preparations were being made to arrange his travel abroad for further treatment, other reports said that he was going to France. Many others gathered in the airport to follow the preparations.

The minister said Mr Abdelaziz, 55, was injured in the arm and that his life was not in danger.

He was treated for a light injury at a military hospital in the capital, Nouakchott.

"On his way back to Nouakchott, the presidential convoy was shot by a Mauritanian patrol as they did not recognise his convoy," Mr Mahjoub said.

"The Mauritanian people can be reassured, the president is fine... He got out of the vehicle unassisted upon arrival at the hospital, where he walked in without difficulty."

A medical source told AFP news agency that he had had a bullet removed, and that he would be flown to Paris to complete his treatment.

Reuters quoted a source as saying that Mr Abdelaziz had been shot in the abdomen and was in stable condition.

The military hospital remains sealed off by security forces.

Hundreds of people gathered there to find out what they could about the president, reports BBC Arabic's Mohammad Taha, from Nouakchott.

President Abdelaziz came to power in a military coup in 2008 in the West African nation. He won presidential elections a year later held under an agreement with coup opponents.

Mauritania- Mali map

He is seen by the West as a bulwark against Islamists in the region, particularly in neighbouring Mali.

Mauritania launched a joint military operation with Mali last year against the bases of Islamist militants in Mali before a rebellion in that country this year split it in two and hardline Islamists occupied the the country's vast northern region.

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