US Peace Corps pulls volunteers from Mauritania

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US humanitarian group the Peace Corps has pulled its volunteer workforce from Mauritania due to security concerns following an upturn in violence in the West African desert nation.
“For security reasons, we have taken 45 volunteers and 14 staff into our training centre (in Senegal),” Demba Sibibe, a Peace Corps official, said yesterday. The US government-backed group said on its Web site its volunteer programme would remain suspended until security conditions improved.
The move by the group, which has operated in Mauritania for more than 40 years, comes after a surge in violence in the normally quiet former French colony struggling to clamp down on an al Qaeda presence within its borders, Reuters reports.
Three people were injured in a suicide bombing earlier this month near the French embassy in the capital, just days after President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who vowed to make the fight against al Qaeda a priority, was sworn in.
No group has yet come forward to claim responsibility for that attack.
In June, al Qaeda’s North Africa wing claimed responsibility for shooting an American aid worker in Nouakchott, saying it was in retaliation for US military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Peace Corps said it was attempting to help Mauritania boost agricultural production, combat widespread erosion, and bolster health and education programmes.
It said on its Web site its office in Nouakchott remained open despite the suspension of the volunteer program.

Pic: Mosque in Nouakchott- Mauritania central