DAKAR, Senegal — The president of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, was shot and wounded while returning home from a country weekend on Saturday evening in what his spokesman said Sunday was an accidental shooting by a nervous soldier.
That explanation was echoed by the official Mauritanian news agency on its Web site, and by the wounded president himself in a halting televised declaration on the state broadcaster from his military hospital bed, shortly before being flown to Paris for further treatment on Sunday.
But the shooting took place in a fraught regional context in which Mr. Abdel Aziz, a former general who seized power in a 2008 coup and was later elected, is one of the few leaders to have successfully fought Al Qaeda’s local franchise, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, on the battlefield. The group, which now controls northern Mali, has previously declared the Mauritanian president a sworn enemy.
In addition, Mr. Abdel Aziz presides over a desert nation of chronic political instability, two coups d’état since 2005 and armed vigilance against the Al Qaeda faction. The militant group, in turn, is now under pressure as nations in West Africa have vowed to dislodge it by force from Mali, a pledge given preliminary approval by the United Nations Security Council last week.
If they had been successfully, it have been a military coup - as it is, it was not successful - and therefore just an accident... I doubt any would fail to discover the president of a nation coming true the roads - as they tend to be known well in advance, even in a country like Mauritania who is ravaged by civil war, and where islamists have taken a part of the country and more or less rule it with an iron fist...