Mauritania soldiers' bodies found

Other News Materials 21 September 2008 02:49 (UTC +04:00)

Mauritania's army says it has found the bodies of 12 soldiers who were abducted earlier this week in an ambush by a suspected al-Qaeda branch, reported BBC.

A government spokesman said the men's bodies were found in the open desert and their throats had been cut.

They were found about 30 km (20 miles) north of the town of Tourine - the site of the ambush.

The west Saharan Islamic state pleaded for international help in battling its growing al-Qaeda presence.

The country, which became a modest oil producer in 2006, says the Islamic Maghreb branch of al-Qaeda is a growing problem in the region.

Al-Qaeda's North Africa wing, which is considered active in neighbouring Algeria, had claimed responsibility for the ambush and said it was holding the soldiers.

The government initially reported that the soldiers had been shot dead in the ambush, but later said they believed they had been abducted.

The group had threatened action after a coup in August that toppled Mauritania's first democratically elected president.

Despite concerns over the growing terrorist threat in the country, the US suspended more than $20m (£11m) in non-humanitarian aid in protest over the coup.