Suspected Islamic militants attacked the Israeli embassy in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, early Friday. Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, two Mauritanians and a French woman were wounded when the attackers also opened fire on a nearby nightclub.
Witnesses say at least three attackers opened fire on the Israeli embassy building on a heavily fortified street in the capital, Nouakchott, before dawn on Friday. After exchanging fire with embassy guards, the attackers opened fire on a nightclub about 50 meters from the embassy building, wounding several people.
Israeli officials say the embassy was closed at the time of the attack and no embassy personnel were injured. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Ariyeh Mekel says Israel values its relations with Mauritania, which along with Jordan and Egypt is one of three Arab countries to recognize Israel. He says an Israeli security team is now on the scene, and there are no plans to close the embassy.
"It is valuable. Mauritania is one of only three Arab countries that have full diplomatic relations with Israel," he said. "We continue to further develop this relationship with Mauritania, in spite of this attack."
Anti-Israeli feelings have been growing in Mauritania since the Israeli government imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip because of Palestinian rocket fire against southern Israel. A coalition of political parties recently called on Mauritania's President to break relations with Israel because of the Gaza blockade.
Mauritania has also seen a recent spike in Islamist-inspired political violence. Islamic militants with suspected ties to al-Qaida were recently charged with killing four French tourists, and blamed for a separate attack on Mauritanian soldiers. The attacks caused the organizers of the Lisbon-Dakar Motor Rally to cancel the race for the first time in its 30-year history.