Gunmen Attack Israeli Embassy in Mauritania, Wounding Civilian

At least one gunman opened fire on the Israeli Embassy in Mauritania Friday, setting off a battle with guards that wounded one person, according to Israeli officials and witnesses.

The Israeli ambassador to the northwest African nation said the wounded person was a Mauritanian who lived nearby and no embassy employees were hurt.

Two witnesses told The Associated Press that the attack had been carried out by a group of men who shouted "God is Great!" in Arabic before opening fire on the embassy around 2 a.m.

Mauritanian officials issued no immediate comment.

Hamza Ould Bilal, a taxi driver who had been parked outside the VIP, a disco next to the embassy, said that six men gathered outside the club before pulling out weapons and attacking. Guards at the embassy traded fire with the gunmen, who fled on foot and jumped into a car, Bilal said.

Ali Fall, a club employee, said several men attacked the embassy with guns before fleeing in a car.

Israel has had diplomatic relations with Mauritania, a predominantly Muslim member of the Arab League, since 1999.

Mauritania has had relatively few incidents of terrorism in recent years. But on Christmas Eve, four French tourists were killed by gunmen while picnicking on the side of a road in Mauritania, an act the government blamed on a terror sleeper cell affiliated with Al Qaeda. Their killing led the French organizers of the famous Dakar Rally to cancel the long-standing trans-Saharan race, which would have traversed this desert nation last month.

The Israeli ambassador, Boaz Bismut, told Israel Radio that the shooting attack followed furious protests this week over Israel's policies in the Gaza Strip. Israel has been restricting deliveries of gas and other supplies to the territory in response to rocket attacks targeting Israeli towns.

The neighborhood around the Israeli embassy was cordoned off by the Mauritanian military, who prevented journalists and visitors from entering.

Yael Ravia-Zadok, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said a team of investigators from the ministry would leave for Mauritania Friday to investigate.