News

Mauritania Launches Mission to Rescue Kidnapped Workers

Spain's ambassador to Mauritania says Mauritanian authorities are using every possible means to locate kidnapped Spanish citizens

Mauritania
Mauritania

Mauritanian authorities have launched an operation to find three Spanish aid workers kidnapped by armed gunmen.  Sunday's abduction was the latest in a string of attacks on foreign aid workers and tourists in the West African country.

Albert Vilalta, Roque Pascual, and Alicia Gamez were kidnapped by armed men on Sunday, 150 kilometers north of Mauritania's capital Nouakchott.  The Spanish aid workers were in Mauritania with the aid group Barcelona Accion Solidaria.

Spain's ambassador to Mauritania Alonso Dezcallar y Mazarredo says Mauritanian authorities are using every possible means to locate the Spanish citizens.

Ambassador Mazarredo says the response of the Mauritanian authorities has been immediate, active and positive.  He says together they are using every means to try to find the Spanish citizens.  

He said other members of Barcelona Accion Solidaria will travel with military guards for the rest of their stay in Mauritania.  The group has been working in a desert region in the north delivering aid to impoverished villages.

From the moment he found out about the kidnapping, Mazzaredo says he contacted Mauritanian authorities and assured them the rest of the members of the aid group will be protected while they are in the field.

The aid workers were traveling in a convoy of 12 vehicles when they were abducted by armed men who fired at their vehicle.

Richard Barrett is from the U.N. al-Qaida monitoring team.  He says that while attacks by al-Qaida and its operatives are decreasing in many parts of the world, the situation is worsening in North Africa.

"The situation has got worse for countries like Mauritania, it may get worse for countries like Mali. In Mauritania there have been several attacks, if you go back there was an attack on the Israeli embassy there, an attack on government troops, troops have been killed, there were some French tourists who were killed," he said.

In 2007, Four French tourists were killed as they picnicked by the side of a desert road, and a British hostage was beheaded after being kidnapped in Mali. Al-Qaida claimed responsibility.

In June, American Christopher Leggett was shot dead in Nouakchott.  He was running a school there, with the backing of the American Christian aid group, Operation Blessing. Again, al-Qaida claimed responsibility.

Richard Barrett says al-Qaida is increasingly using local groups to take hostages.

"Their ambitions remain, even if their capabilities perhaps are a little bit less at the moment, but their ambitions will remain for the foreseeable future and their capabilities may well increase," said Barrett.  "And clearly what they are trying to do is to get people who can easily infiltrate into western countries and plot attacks or even do them on their own," he said.

Barrett says it is difficult to track al-Qaida's movements in countries like Mali and Mauritania, which have porous desert borders.  He says the traditional approach of placing suspects on a list and following their movements does not always work.

"When an individual is placed on the list, their assets and bank accounts are frozen and their access to arms and any military training should cease as well.  Clearly that is a little theoretical if you are listing somebody who is in a lawless area of the world," said Barrett.

Aid is key to Mauritania, which is being hit hard by the effects of climate change.  The desert nation is also popular with adventurous tourists, who come for its sand dunes and birdwatching.

But the author of the Lonely Planet Guide to Mauritania, Paul Clammer, says reports of terrorism are driving away tourists.

"Several places that I went to for the book, towns in the Ajar region which is the main tourist area - it is a very spectacular desert region and you can do camel trekking and take four wheel drives into the dunes - and it was just dead," he said. "Talking to local guides, nobody has really got any work. The whole economy was dependent," he added.

In 2008, the world famous Dakar Rally car race was canceled amid fears of attacks on participants.  The route traditionally runs through Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal, but this year's rally took place in Argentina.

As the rescue mission continues, Barcelona Accion Solidaria is set to continue its work without the three kidnapped workers.  The convoy will travel to Senegal and The Gambia this week under military escort.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs