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Spanish Aid Workers Abducted in Mauritania

Three volunteers, Albert Vilalta, Roque Pascual and Alicia Gamez of a Spanish aid group, Barcelona Accion Solidaria were kidnapped while traveling from the capital city Nouakchott to the town of Nouadhibou

Spanish Aid Workers Abducted in Mauritania
Spanish Aid Workers Abducted in Mauritania
Kate Thomas

Three Spanish aid workers have been taken by armed men in Mauritania.  

The three volunteers were working for a Spanish aid group, Barcelona Accion Solidaria.  They are Albert Vilalta, Roque Pascual and Alicia Gamez, who is also a Spanish civil servant.

They were kidnapped while traveling from the capital city Nouakchott to the town of Nouadhibou.
 
Their car was the last in a convoy of 12 vehicles.  They stopped for a quick routine check by the side of the road, and were approached by armed men who fired at their vehicle.

Attacks are increasing on aid workers in Mauritania, a predominately Muslim country with porous desert borders.

"The situation has got worse for countries like Mauritania and it may get worse for countries like Mali," said Richard Barrett, of the U.N. al-Qaida monitoring team.

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.

"In Mauritania there have been several attacks and a guy called Chris Leggett was killed there, a United States citizen," added Barrett.  "Beyond that, there have been various other attacks in Mauritania.  There was an attack on the Israeli embassy there not so long ago, an attack on government troops, troops have been killed, there were some French tourists who were killed."

In June, American Christopher Leggett was shot in Noukshott.  He was running a school with the backing of the American christian aid group, Operation Blessing.  Al Qaida claimed responsibility.

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.  

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