More news from Mauritania. Word on the street is that two people have died and fifteen people have been hospitalized in a massive fire-fight in the chic Tavregh Zeina neighborhood of the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott today. The fighting is linked to the massive manhunt going on in search of the escaped Islamist accused of killing four French tourists late last year, Sidi Ould Sidna. There is speculation that Ould Sidna may have been killed in the fighting (Correction: Ould Sidna was among the wounded, operated on, and then taken into detention). It is unclear as to what the composition of wounded has been (in terms of soldiers, police, militants, or civilians). The government is describing the clash as one between the government and â€œSalafists,â€� a descriptor easily exchanged for â€œterrorists.â€�*
Mauritanian sources suspect that there is French involvement on the governmentâ€™s side (French intell. has been in the capital for the past two weeks and the French were hopping mad to hear that Ould Sidna had escaped so quickly). According sources in Nouakchott, it is believed that four militants have escaped, and that police casualties are high because they attempted to arrest the militants, as opposed to killing them. Two wounded terrorists have been arrested. It is also being reported from the capital that the head of Mauritaniaâ€™s elite anti-terror unit was killed in the fighting. Here is the Reuters report. The story remains ongoing.